A manager we know sent his employees a memo about the upheavals in the marketplace, stating, “We’ll have to shift around resources and job alignments. That means you’ll have new responsibilities, perhaps even extra work.” Immediately, they groaned: “Oh, no, they’re gonna ask us to do more work with fewer resources.” Employees and managers are always ready to fight that, especially if they’re in panic mode. They see each other as stubborn, closed-minded, and negative. The employees are unhappy because, in their view, the problem is the company… the marketplace…the management… the products… basically, everything and everyone else except them — “It’s not me, it’s you guys!”
When it comes to change-resistant employees, one-on-one dialogue can be a powerful tool. Discussing each other’s issues over lunch or coffee is a good way to ease into such a conversation and help them understand the bigger picture, getting them to open up and share their thoughts, feelings, issues, and perspectives. Be a catalyst to effective communication. The ONLY way to do that is to ask good questions!
Start off by asking your employee how things look from their standpoint; this gives you a chance to discuss their issues and feelings. Keep in mind that such questions will encourage people to vent — and that’s just what we want! As a manager, you need to listen, even at the risk of opening the proverbial can of worms. Here are examples of good questions to ask.
- Tell me about the things that YOU are experiencing on the job.
- Share with me what’s going on in your world.
- From your perspective, how are you perceiving and experiencing change now?
- What are the implications if we don’t change? What could we do differently to adapt to change? What are some of the things you’re doing differently in order to adapt?