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Memo to Managers
In a recent Harvard Business Review article, “Can Your Employees Really Speak Freely,” two business professors shared their research findings related to the gaps between managers’ perceptions of their approachableness, and the reality.
As a manager, being approachable is critical, because most employees prefer to speak to their managers about ethics and compliance issues before going to HR, ethics or a hotline/helpline.
Based on the article, here are five questions you can ask yourself about your approachability:
1) Do you issue general rather than specific invitations to check in with employees? “Come and see me any time” is not as effective as sending a meeting request or scheduling a specific time to check in with members of your team. Also, consider whether it is easy or hard for your team to find your office and visit. Can they come by casually, or does it feel like a big deal to stop by?
2) What messages are you sending with your body language? The authors warn against “conveying your power through subtle cues” that indicate dominance. If you’re sitting behind a huge desk, crossing your arms, or frequently checking your phone during meetings and conversations, you could be sending a message you don’t intend.
3) Do you follow up with employees’ questions and suggestions? If a team member comes to you with a question, suggestion or concern and you listen but take no action, your trust with that employee erodes. Commit to following up, and let them know what action, if any was taken—and if not, why not.
4) Are most of your conversations with your team fairly formal? If you rarely have casual conversations with your employees—or if every conversation feels “high stakes”—employees will be much less comfortable sharing information with you.
5) How do you handle brainstorming sessions? Your approachability can be significantly impacted by how you treat team members during those moments where they’re out on a limb—including sharing new or off-the-cuff ideas in front of other team members. This frequently happens in brainstorming or planning sessions. When team members feel safe and protected there, they’re more likely to find you approachable and trustworthy.
The more your team members feel comfortable with you, the more likely they are to speak up when they have a question or an issue. And that helps us better protect our company, our reputation and our bottom line.
Questions of the Month
Q: I try to be a friend to my employees, but they still don’t seem to feel comfortable approaching me about issues. What can I do?
A. In a survey cited in the book What People Want by Terry Bacon, only 3% of respondents want their manager to be their buddy. What they do want is a competent leader that they can trust to treat them fairly and with respect. That includes being approachable, having a real open door, listening carefully to their issues and being accountable for taking appropriate action. But establishing trust can be challenging. Start by getting to know your staff as individual people through informal interactions, but make sure to enforce boundaries that prevent advancing the relationship to “BFF” status.
Q: I’ve always encouraged my staff to speak up to me about any issue, but recently one very upset employee accused me of playing favorites and giving a promotion to another employee instead of her. I think I made the right choice, so this accusation really bothers me. What should I do?
A. Look at your own behaviors to identify any actions that would send a message of favoritism. Have you spent more time informally chatting with the promoted employee? Has that employee received anything that would give the impression of a special favor, like remote work days or a plum assignment when no one else experiences these perks? A perception of favoritism is the reality to onlookers. You can work to mend this situation by clearly explaining your objective reasoning behind the promotion and by previewing your own future actions through the eyes of your employees. Objectivity and self-appraisal are powerful tools in building trust.
Ethics & Compliance Training for Managers
Managers have the greatest impact on how employees view their organization and its commitment to ethics and compliance. NAVEX Global offers manager-specific compliance training courses—both full-length and microlearning—to help managers make better decisions while identifying and addressing ethical issues. See all of our manager-specific training in our new courseware catalog.
Using Compliance Communicator
Equipping managers with the skills they need to navigate the E&C challenges they face is critical. Use the content in Compliance Communicator to help keep compliance top of mind with your managers and strengthen your organizational culture. NAVEX Global grants you permission to publish any or all of the content to best suit your needs.
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About NAVEX Global, Inc.
NAVEX Global’s comprehensive suite of ethics and compliance software, content and services helps organizations protect their people, reputation and bottom line. Trusted by 95 of the FORTUNE 100 and more than 12,500 clients, our solutions are informed by the largest ethics and compliance community in the world.