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We’ve written about how to improve communication skills, but when you’re a manager who struggles to know how to communicate with employees it can seem like a bigger problem than just having positive body language. Don’t worry if this is you though, we’ve got the most relevant advice to help you forge great working relationships and keep your employees happy and supported.

Know you’re not alone

If you feel like maybe you’re just not a great communicator and worry that you’re not as good of a boss as others, know that you’re not alone. In a study published in the Harvard Business Review, a huge 69% of managers said they were uncomfortable communicating with employees, and 37% said they were uncomfortable with giving direct feedback about employee feedback because of a potentially negative reaction.

Know what your biggest weakness is

Before you can know how to communicate with employees and improve your working relationships, you need to know which area of communication you struggle with most. Is it providing performance feedback as mentioned above? A fear of being seen as ‘weak’ or vulnerable if you open up? A worry about showing the business in a negative light? These are all key areas that can cause some managers to clam up instead of communicate. When you pinpoint one or a few specific areas causing you worry, you can target them more effectively and find solutions.

Make time to talk

Implementing daily or weekly short meetings to check in with employees, discuss the days or weeks goals and talk about any ideas or issues staff may have. Make it clear when you communicate with employees that they can talk to you about any problems they’re having, whether it’s an office issue, or a personal matter that may affect their workload or performance. This was also discussed in our blog about improving mental health in the workplace, and creating a clear and frequent line of communication for your staff will make it easier for them to see you as an approachable boss and open up to you.

Re-wire how you see vulnerability

One cause of poor communication is because you have an idea in your head that managers should be aloof and reserved when it comes to dealing with staff, and then talking to them makes you look ‘weak.’ If you have this idea and think that you should keep employer/employee relationships distant, this is something you have to re-wire in your head.
You don’t have to be bosom buddies with your staff, just friendly, willing to listen to an issue and open to conversation. The potential sense of feeling vulnerable when you let down your guard and act like more of a human instead of a robot can be disconcerting at first, but improved working relationships will make it worthwhile in time.

Be transparent

No one wants to be the bearer of bad news when it comes to giving employee feedback or saying that the business can’t afford to give someone a pay rise at the moment, but it’s always important to be transparent about these issues. Giving someone constructive criticism is a necessary evil as it can help them to see areas where they excel and areas they need to improve in. If you don’t want employees to just think you say bad things, balance this out by recognising people’s successes and praising them for good work.
When it comes to discussing bonuses or salary increases, don’t think you’re bad-mouthing the company by being open with your employees. They will appreciate your honesty more than keeping them in the dark and unsure if a pay-rise will be achievable in the near future, or if they can start looking forward to the next bonus or not. Make quarterly targets known to your employees, and certainly don’t be vague when it comes to money or they may resent you when the goods don’t get delivered.
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