3 Things Managers Should Say More Often To Their Employees (and Why)

June 14, 2019

Many managers struggle to consistently communicate with their team members in a way that’s helpful, encouraging and conducive to positive outcomes. Whether it’s because they don’t regularly make the time for effective communication to happen or simply don’t know what to say most of the time, communication is a huge problem in manager-employee relationships.

To be clear, we’re not talking about giving appropriate praise to employees after a job well done. That’s something any manager in their right mind should know to do to prevent employees from feeling undervalued. We’re talking about communication that gives employees space vent, learn, grow and gain confidence.

While every situation is different, there are 3 specific things that managers should say to employees more often. The result of saying these phrases genuinely and more often: 1) employees feel more valued and engaged, 2) they have more opportunities to contribute more and achieve more, and 3) there is less painful ambiguity for all parties involved.

“Here’s my honest feedback.”

  • Make your intention clear. “I’m sharing this information with you because I know how much potential you have in the organization, and I think this one area is holding you back.”
  • Make your expectations clear. “There are two ways to handle feedback like this. If you were to take it with a negative / non-constructive mindset, you would leave my office pointing fingers at me and your other coworkers, wondering who threw you under the bus, you become angry, you treat your colleagues poorly, and you think about walking out the door. With a positive / constructive mindset, you’d ask yourself, ‘What am I meant to learn from this?’ My expectation – because I know how much potential you have here – is that you take constructive route.”
  • Focus on things that you can change. If the employee gets defensive or bogged down by the details of things in the past, simply remind him or her that they can’t change what’s already done and ask again, “What one change can you make today to show improvement in this area moving forward?”
  • Ask for commitment. “Can I count on you to throw together a rough game plan by next week?”

“How am I doing?”

While employees often get unsolicited feedback from every direction (clients, coworkers, you, etc.), managers often face the opposite problem: total lack of feedback.

The remedy? Simply opening up the dialogue by asking questions and being open to feedback yourself. Some great questions to help facilitate this important conversation include:

  • How am I doing as your manager?
  • Is there anything you can think of that I could have handled better in the last quarter?
  • Am I available when you need my input on things?
  • Are you comfortable being open and honest with me?
  • What one or two things can I do to provide better leadership to you in the next quarter?

Build these questions into monthly or quarterly one-on-one meetings with your team and then take intentional measures to respond to their feedback (when valid) through adjustments to your leadership. 

“What would you like to do?”

Personal accountability, or a feeling of ownership, is central to employee engagement, satisfaction, and longevity at work. As a manager, you can help create personal accountability among your managees by simply asking the question, “What would you like to do?” (or something equivalent) a little more often.

Here are some examples of how this single question (phrased in a few different ways) can lead employees to take ownership and accountability for their experiences at work and contribute in meaningful ways to change their own reality:

  • When an employee complains about a coworker, ask, “Sounds like she’s struggling. What could you do to help her?”
  • When an employee is frustrated with lack of movement, “I’m so glad to hear you support this project. Can I count on you to take the lead with that?”
  • When an employee wants a raise, “I’d love to help you increase your income. What would you like to do to qualify for a pay increase?”

Managing employees can be really challenging and unpredictable. Saying these three things to your employees more often will ensure that you can cultivate more positive interactions with them that then lead to more positive outcomes.

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Linda Le Phan
Senior Content Marketing Manager at kununu.

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