I am often perplexed why companies do not make the necessary changes to keep good employees. Now, I am not saying give everyone a raise, although some may be underpaid for their contributions to the organization. But one of the primary reasons employees leave is due to poor communication by those in “management” positions.

Now, most organizations understand the importance of communication and invest in training their employees and managers. Few have good follow through to ensure this training becomes practice. Meaning, organizations rely too heavily on training and do not place enough focus on the after training implementation and sustainment. I am sure we can all agree communication is essential to any relationship and is especially important in the workplace. Thus, training alone is not sufficient. Over a series of blogs, I will discuss some of the many reasons good employees leave and the management challenges that should be addressed. Today, I will address communication.

Being in the management field for over 20 years – in management, as an employee, consulting, and now as a professor, I hear tons of stories that leave me speechless. A few things I have heard (and seen, believe it or not):

  • “I don’t need to listen to you, you need to listen to me.”
  • “I don’t think I can get you to understand this.”
  • “Are you stupid or what?” (This was actually sent in an email!)
  • “I really don’t care why you did what you did, only do what I tell you!” (Yes, this was in the workplace).
  • “I already know [the project] will not be to my liking but go ahead and finish it and then I will give you feedback.”
  • ” I’ll see them walk you out of the building before you see me leave”.

I have so many more, but these are some of the most shocking.  I could dissect these statements, but I am sure you can imagine the damage these statements can do in the workplace and with work relations. Now, these statements may have real feelings behind them and someone may feel the statements could be warranted but are they conducive to encouraging performance? When managers take positions of authority, there is an even higher responsibility for effective communication. This includes what is said, how it is said, where it is said, in front of whom, when it is said, the format, and even why it is said. I only wish more people would understand that not all things thought need to be said!

I mentioned earlier that many companies do invest in training. The training is only a start. Granted, most have instilled feedback and development sessions but is that enough? Why is it that these statements are still widely made in some organizations and nothing is done or so it seems as many good employees leave after experiencing this type of interactions repeatedly? I am sure someone could argue that these same statements if made in different tones or settings or with an established relationship, etc. would be okay. The problem is we cannot assume that these statements do not do damage nor are they acceptable.

The main issue is many of these statements belittle the employee, attack their confidence, set them up for failure, and diminish their motivation, thus lessening their commitment to the organization. Employees want to feel valued. They want to feel worth an investment. They want to be heard, and they need to know their contributions matter. Many of these employees are “good” employees. One who add value to the organization. Ones willing to put in extra hours, without complaining, to ensure the job is done and done right; Employees with the experience and potential and ones hard to find.

So, what changes do companies need to make? First, start with follow-through on training. Training is not a once and done. It should be on-going. Evaluations need to happen at all levels of management, meaning no one should be too far removed from feedback. And use the feedback to help develop managers. I will discuss feedback and the process in my next blog. Until then, here are a few references that can assist with communication:

Please share your story and let’s continue the conversation.

Click here to read Why Good Employees Leave (Part 2)

Danón R. Carter
Employee Development Specialist