Leadership optimize

Managers should try to anticipate employee concerns

Ever go into a company meeting feeling like you're about to be beheaded only to find out it's just to announce a promotion. Here's why leaders should forestall those fears.

There are many word combinations that can strike fear in the heart of average mortals, like "root canal" or "giant eel." (Let's face it, nothing good can come from a situation that involves a giant eel.)

Another of those terms is "Let's talk."

This term is frightening enough in a personal relationship, but in a work setting those words or their brethren ("Please see me for a minute," "Can you come in to my office?" or "We'll be having a surprise company meeting today") always seem like harbingers of doom even when they're not.

Part of the reason for this perception is that bosses very rarely call an employee in to the office simply to praise that person for his or her performance. If you're a manager of people, you should make a conscious effort to single out an employee now and then just to tell that person that he or she is doing a good job.

The company meeting thing is a little different. For people who have been through company buyouts and/or layoffs that came out of the blue, that term can take on a horrific connotation. And a sudden, unplanned company meeting can cause heart palpitations in the heartiest people.

Anything that is considered momentous enough to be announced in a company meeting is scary, whether it's to let you know that the company is being relocated to Verkhoyansk where you will have to drive a dog sled to work or that there is a reorg planned that will involve the reshuffling of employee duties that executives never understood to begin with.

The issue that I have is that many company leaders don't understand that. It always seems a surprise to leaders when people ask beforehand if they should be concerned. I mean come on, we're living in the economy from hell and job longevity is as quaint a notion as petticoats. My advice to leaders is if the news isn't going to be bad, say so right off the bat. Because I guarantee you that whatever they're saying before they get to "here's why we've called you together today" is lost.

Practice a little empathy!

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

5 comments
jev.case-24297005939114168965253281161338
jev.case-24297005939114168965253281161338

When I hear the words "Do you have a second?" I always assume the worst. Recently I had a meeting like this and my mind began racing through potential subjects of the meeting. Thankfully it was nothing I thought of but I agree with the article I wish more would be done in advance to allay my fears. I don't know if my superiors want me to feel this way; I think probably not but it still makes me uncomfortable to hear those words.

OurITLady
OurITLady

If they call a meeting but say "don't worry, it's not bad news" it makes it obvious when they call a meeting and don't say anything that there is bad news coming. Best option would be to have regular meetings (company or dept) and time whatever news for those - then people don't tend to worry as it's just a regular meeting. I know that's not always possible, but surely there's nothing so urgent it can't wait a few hours to schedule a less urgent sounding meeting - it's the short notice ones that tend to panic me!

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

If they're announcing bad news, what then? They can't just tell a few and risk it getting out as random gossip. So they wait for the meeting. BTW: Fried eel at my Grandmother's house in the south was one of the tastiest fish I ever had. So bring on your giant eel. LOL No news is neither all good nor all bad. (Is that a triple negative?)

toni.bowers
toni.bowers

You're right, OurITLady--regular meetings would help.

toni.bowers
toni.bowers

I guess I'm just thinking that if it's bad news, it's bad news and it's going to come out. But if it's not bad news, then it would help to ease everyone's minds. Haven't had fried eel, but I think if I came across a giant live eel, I would instantly blow a heart valve or something so I wouldn't be able to eat it anyway. LOL