By Deborah Gantos

In previous articles, I have suggested some ways to better communicate with employees. In this issue, I will be focusing on one-on-one conversation between owner and employee/staff. This depends on how many employees/staff you have. If you have fewer than 25 employees, then I suggest you do it personally or with your “second in command.”  If not, thoroughly train your managers to do this.

In my many years of consulting and university teaching, two things are essential in forging positive attitudes among employees. The first is to be “appreciated.” I recently attended a gathering of an organization I am a member of, where it was obvious staff members were starved for attention. Many of them had been with this organization for years and were very productive individuals. Being a naturally gregarious person and counselor, I happened to congratulate and extend some praise to the people attending the event. It was obvious it was like feeding food and water to starving waifs.

When was the last time you congratulated your employees for a job well done? If you balk at honoring the “slackers,” then personally applaud those folks who DO perform, who are loyal and demonstrate they are an integral part in your company. Sometimes, applauding everyone is not such a bad idea if you word it correctly. “I want to congratulate the loyal employees of the Acme Army Navy Store who continuously strive to make our company better and help us to be able to provide jobs for you all. In future, we will be rewarding those of you who go above and beyond your job descriptions.”

The second part of this theme is to be “listened to” and given the opportunity to tell their side of the story. I am sure most of you can remember a childhood incident when you were blamed for something you did not do, yet experienced the wrath of a parent or authority figure who punished you for your actions. Of course, we were not permitted to tell our side of the story…… My memory was an incident concerning my cousin Charlene (Name changed to protect her identity.) Charlene was an only child whose parents both worked and was “spoiled.” She wore only the best clothes and her parents doted on her. Whatever Charlene wanted, she got. At times, she lived with my grandmother who thought the sun rose and set on her. Charlene was short, chubby, blond haired, fair skinned, with light blue eyes and was a replica of Grandma. I was tall, skinny, olive skinned, dark haired, with dark blue eyes.  Needless to say, Grandma favored Cousin Charlene. To continue my story, because I love to digress, my cousin, Charlene and I, were playing hopscotch. Charlene started to cry and told her father I was being “mean” and was saying mean things to her. I had said something to the effect that if she did not want to play “nicely,” I did not want to play with her. Her dad told my dad about the incident.

On the ride home, my dad severely chastised me for being unkind to my cousin Charlene. When I tried to explain, he just went more ballistic. I was not allowed to tell him my version of what happened. Humbled, I vowed I would never forget this injustice, and to this day, I never have.

The moral of this story.  We all have cousin Charlenes in our lives who make us look bad and make us helpless to defend ourselves.  I am sure some of your employees or staff have had similar instances where they were unjustly accused in the workplace. Just listen. You do not have to take sides. It has to do with being listened to and given a fair chance to telling their side of the story.

So hearken back to one of your cousin Charlene stories. The next time a staff member or employee expresses the need to be listened to: just listen.