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Five Things Your Employees Really Want to Know (But Are Often Afraid to Ask)

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It's something that we all experienced at some point in our careers — the uncertainty that comes from not knowing how our managers and superiors feel about our work. This sense of insecurity can afflict any employee, regardless of his or her tenure. It's common among recent hires who are still trying to fit in and get in sync with their new workplace, from the culture to their co-workers, and most importantly, their boss. Conversely, more tenured employees can feel this way because they may have gotten too settled in their day-to-day tasks and so get a sense that there is no more room for growth.

When an employee begins to question their performance, or worse, their job security, it often spells trouble for managers. It can affect morale, productivity and even retention. So what is a manager to do? According to renowned career coach Joan Lloyd, the answer lies in being able and willing to address the few questions most employees ask. In what she calls, "a management 101 course in 500 words or less," Joan lists and explains the five most common (and crucial) questions employees wish and even need their managers to answer — but rarely ask.

  1. What is expected of me? Tell employees what the vision and goals of the business are and how their job fits. This can be done through regular meetings and updates. You can also tie in goals when you delegate work.

  2. How am I doing? Employees want feedback on a regular basis. In fact, it's one of the biggest reasons people leave their jobs. They never hear anything from the boss unless they make a mistake. When they do something that shows initiative, problem solving, or any application of talent, let them know. Senior Management also expects managers to confront problems and give an employee honest but respectful coaching.

  3. Where do I stand? At least once a year, employees want to know how they stack up. This is an opportunity to talk about all the things they do right and how important they are to the business. If they did have some problems during the year, they want to know how that fits into the total picture.

  4. How can I improve? Even your best employees want to know how to get better. If they have a performance gap, work with them to develop an action plan. It can be something small. The key is that it will improve their overall performance.

  5. How can I grow and stay challenged? Most people start to get bored after a few years on a job. If they don't have anything new to learn, they start to develop bad habits and lose their energy and drive. Each year, ask employees, "What was most challenging this year?" "What new things did you learn?" "What new things would you like to learn about next year?"

According to Joan, these five questions are just the basics. "Excellent leaders take a personal interest in their employees. They also involve employees in decisions that have an impact on them. If you treat employees like you treat your valuable customers, you will never go wrong."

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