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The Eight Rules of Management
by Gregory Blencoe


Rule #6: Listen to Employees

You possess two ears and one mouth.  Hmm, maybe there is a management secret in that little piece of knowledge?

Managers who listen to employees have a much more efficient workforce.  Communication is healthy for any relationship, and it is especially important in the context of managers and employees.  There are many benefits to listening to employees.  Employees are able to voice concerns and deal with them before they become lingering problems.  They also feel valued which raises productivity and lowers turnover.  In addition, the manager will have a firm grasp on how everybody feels.  Lastly, once employees feel they have been heard, they become much more attentive and responsive to concerns the manager has.

Employees are people and, like it or not, people tend to keep their feelings about their job bottled up inside.  They can be upset about something and the manager won’t even have a clue that anything is wrong.  As a result, the problem festers as resentment and anger build up inside while productivity and motivation decline.  The cure for this cancer is for managers to regularly schedule meetings to listen to employees about anything related to their jobs.  Communicating regularly with employees is much like periodically changing the oil in your car.  If you don’t change the oil, unknown problems will begin to slowly build up before that dreaded day when you are stuck on the side of the road and have to call a tow truck.  Just as taking your car in every three thousand miles to get the oil changed will help ensure your automotive machine is in top working condition, communicating with employees will help ensure that your human resources “machine” is in top working condition.  

Most managers will probably say “Well, I have an open-door management policy.  Employees are free to set up a time to talk to me anytime they want.”  Although this is true, employees don’t think that you really want to hear what they have to say.  Employees fear if they voice their opinions that the manager might become upset, label them a complainer, or do nothing about it.  Therefore, regularly scheduled meetings would create an atmosphere where listening to employees is expected.  This will give employees the extra nudge to speak up and say what they really feel.

During the meetings, managers should let the employee guide where the conversation goes.  Questions should be asked to clarify exactly how employees feel and to obtain more detail when needed from employees who are not comfortable being direct.  Managers should also listen without judgment and stay neutral.  Employees should be heard without fear of being reprimanded.  In addition, managers should never choose sides or ridicule another employee in the meetings.  If that happens, employees will lose respect for the manager and also begin to wonder what is being said about them when the manager meets with other employees.  Lastly, managers should take this whole process very seriously and not do it halfheartedly by seeming disinterested or not listening attentively.  If managers approach the meetings in a phony fashion, then the employees will become upset and not communicate their true feelings to the manager.

Managers should also listen to employees to get ideas on how to improve the business.  Employees know more about their jobs than anyone else, but they are usually the last ones to be asked how things could be done better.  Why managers don’t tap into the gold mine of ideas that employees possess is baffling.  The only explanation is that these types of managers believe that they are the only ones who know how to improve the business.  This is absurd because nobody has a monopoly on knowledge.  Besides being the experts at their jobs, employees can bring a fresh perspective to analyzing the problems of the business because they have a different set of life experiences.  That is valuable.  In fact, asking employees how to improve the business is tantamount to getting high quality management consulting advice.  Why pay $100/hour for a professional opinion when your employees can give one to you for free?  In addition, listening to the ideas that employees have will be a tremendous morale booster.  Most workers would cherish the opportunity to give input on decisions that affect their jobs.  The message being communicated from managers to employees is that “You are important and we value what you have to say.”  That is one of the highest compliments that a manager can give an employee.

Knowledge is power.  Listen to employees.

Rule #7


The Author

The Art of Management

Gregory J. Blencoe is a management consultant and author of The Art of Management.  He has written articles for numerous magazines including Success, Human Resources Executive, Business Credit, and Canadian Business Franchise.  Please feel free to contact him with any questions at

Many more articles in Creative Leadership in The CEO Refresher Archives
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Copyright 2001 by Gregory J. Blencoe. All rights reserved.

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