People don’t leave companies, they leave managers.

This sentence has quickly become very popular on social media and reached a massive amount of likes and comments. So, how is it possible that employees for years, every day for eight or more hours, are working with someone and never mention they feel that they are badly treated?

(This article was originally written for International Coach Federation and can be found here)

I read about test results where managers were evaluating their own job while their employees were evaluating managers. Ninety percent of managers evaluated themselves as good bosses, but only 30 percent of employees felt that their bosses are good superiors. How is it possible that so many managers were so wrong?

Managers often seem to think that communication between them and the staff is open. Meanwhile, it is often a case that that communication is closed from the very beginning and those lower in the hierarchy prefer to stay rather silent, nodding rather than denying, muttering rather than openly express their objections.

In his book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, Stephen Covey uses the term “emotional bank account.” Covey says that every human being owns an account to which you make payments and take out your funds. Payment is the recognition, kept word, understanding, help in a difficult situation, benevolence, etc. Withdrawals are often the inverse of payments – unfounded criticism, the conversation interrupted with receiving SMS and peeking at your computer (“talk, talk, I have a divisible attention”), broken word, a lack of understanding. The status of your account, as in all banks, depends on the relationship between the payments and disbursements. If it turns out that our relationship with employees is weak or non-existent then we are overdrawn and we have to deal with this as we deal with all debts. We need to pay it off.

A good conversation is the payment to your emotional bank account. Prolonged absence of a conversation is withdrawal. By canceled or postponed talks, conversations thrown out of the schedule by the “more important” jobs, managers are losing a relationship with employees and indirectly they lose control. When there is no conversation, questions remain unanswered, frustrations take a toll and mistakes are made.

Each conversation should go in two directions. While most of managers know how to give feedback, how many are really open to receive it? Receiving feedback is as important as giving it not only for personal and professional development but for strengthening relationships at work.

Some coaching skills might proof very helpful as how to deal with receiving feedback.

1. Be approachable and make time and space for real conversation. Remember, fear of having to deal with defensive behavior and justifying might make employees hesitant to give feedback in the first place.
2. Listen to understand. It is not only the best way to learn more, but to make a real connection with other employees.
3. Ask powerful questions to clarify and understand the feedback.
4. Ask for examples and stories that illustrate the feedback.
5. Summarize and reflect what you hear so you and your employee are on the same page.
6. Don’t be judgmental. You have an opportunity to learn about yourself and how your actions are interpreted and in the end it is up to you what you do with this knowledge.

Talking about how people are doing at work, what they need, is an essential tool for relational disaster prevention, but let’s do not underestimate receiving feedback as a good management tool either.

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