Week 4: Communicating With Your Direct Reports

MOOC - University of California, Irvine - Communication in the 21st Century Workplace / Communicating with Your Employees

Week 4: Communicating With Your Direct Reports

“Communicating with Your Employees…Giving Feedback to Your Employees…Book Chat: “Listen Up…”


  • 4.1 Communicating with Your Employees
  • 4.2 Giving Feedback to Your Employees
  • 4.3 Book Chat:

4.1 Communicating with Your Employees

  • In our session today I’m going to advocate that you evaluate your existing communication approach.
  • Managers who have direct reports, meaning they are formally someone’s manager in an organization, can find themselves ill-equipped to manage the multiple communication styles on a team.
  • Try applying some of the techniques in this section to a team as many of them can be adapted to collaborative work teams or to project teams.
  • Throughout our modules we’ve talked about the importance of connecting through communication, making it about others.
  • It’s critically important that you understand, who you’re direct reports are, and their preferences for communication.
  • Keep in mind that your communication approach may need to shift depending on the geographic location of the team.
  • If your team works together in person, focus on verbal communication techniques.
  • If your team is located virtually or is blended, make sure you’re focusing on virtual techniques such as time zone consideration and meeting preferences such as preferences for web cam or conference call.
  • Lastly, the larger your team, the greater the likelihood that cross cultural norms will need to be considered.
  • Now, if you currently have a large team of direct reports, you may be thinking, gosh, how am I supposed to incorporate all of these nuances preferences into my communication with each team member individually, as a group and get all my other work done? It can be tricky and that’s why I recommend practice, practice.
  • Value the communication from you that offers them feedback or sets direction.
  • An improvement in time management often correlates directly to the improvement of communication.
  • As we discussed in the Communicating with Peers module, conflict naturally arises in the workplace, and there is no better breeding ground for it than on teams made up of people who bring different approaches and perspectives to the table.
  • If your manager said she was open to discussing conflict but had her hands on her hips and was sighing and nearly rolling her eyes, would you believe her? Keep both your verbal and nonverbal communication neutral and objective and focus on facts and data.
  • If a conflict arises with a team member who works virtually.

4.2 Giving Feedback to Your Employees

  • I think managing is one of the most rewarding things that anyone can do in their professional career for several reasons.
  • One is, you get to work with a group of people who come from different backgrounds, have different personality types, and have different ways of doing things in the workplace.
  • To have all the fun things like team outings and things like that.
  • Going back to what I said about the varying personality types, different backgrounds, different work styles, I think getting everyone on the same page, working towards that common goal, can be something that’s particularly tricky, especially from a managerial standpoint.
  • I think one of the things that I learned early on in my career is that over-communication can be a good thing.
  • That doesn’t necessarily mean micromanaging, because I don’t think anyone really likes to be micromanaged.
  • I think communicating with your team, letting them know what the goals for the organization and your department are, I think that goes a long way in kind of bringing everyone together and helping those different personality types mesh, basically.
  • We’d go around the table and everyone would talk all the various things they were doing and what’s been going on in their workplace at that time.
  • I think looking back on it, it was a fantastic thing because it kept everyone on the same page.
  • I think at the time, I really looked at that as this thing that kind of dragged on and it kind of became this thing that everyone dreaded doing because you had to come up with something to say.
  • I think now as a manager, when I apply that to my own team, it gives everyone an opportunity to come to the table and talk about what they’re working on.
  • That way no one thinks that so and so is not working on something, or they don’t know what they’re working on.
  • I think on top of that, another way to communicate with the team is with these ongoing meetings is also have individual one-on-one meetings with every member of your team.
  • I think, one of the things that over-communicating, and I’m going to call it over-communicating, but really over-communicating, what that does with a team, is it allows those varying personality types to come together more often.
  • Another challenge I have, and I actually think me personally this is one of the more challenging things that a supervisor has to do, is provide positive criticism or constructive feedback.
  • I think this is difficult because there’s a multitude of reactions that can come up when you’re giving someone feedback or criticism.
  • One of the things that I found very, very helpful in delivering positive criticism or constructive feedback is to really highlight the things that this employee has brought to the organization and the group.
  • Then let them know that there are some things that they need to work on.
  • I think at that point, it’s really easy to come up with a plan with the employee to say, eight out of ten things in your job are doing very, very well.
  • I’ve heard things from people outside of this group, that that stuff you work on is phenomenal.
  • Here’s a couple of things we need to work on, and let’s spend the next couple of months trying to course correct those things.
  • I think the challenge is, in a manager, is that while they’re different personality types with employees, different managers have different personality types too.
  • I wanted my employees to love me and think that I was the best thing ever, and for a while it worked out very well.
  • I think there is a fine line between being everyone’s best friend, but also being this coach in a way.
  • Letting them know that they need things to work on, and I think that can be in particularly challenging.
  • One thing about that is, if you don’t let people know what they need to correct early on, things can kind of faster and they can manifest to a point where it becomes a long-term issue that’s much harder to course correct.
  • I think that helps with everyone knowing what they’re working towards, that they’re doing a good job, that their efforts are appreciated.
  • I think other people outside of the team who didn’t know him so well had these kind of misconceptions of how he was.
  • I think his emails to people outside the team, and sometimes other communication aspects in medians and such, kind of made him come across as a little aggressive.
  • I think I had to come up with a way to break that down to him.
  • What I did, and I think this goes back to me wanting to initially be friends with everyone, is I took it from a friendly standpoint.
  • Aside from that, he had some areas of improvement to work with, and I think that had to do with his communication style, so I let him know about that.
  • I think, with some of the bigger projects he was working on, especially with the people that had the issues with him, I didn’t want to micromanage too much.
  • So I think we were able to kind of nip that one in the bud a little bit.
  • In closing, I think, as a manager, a couple of things I find to be very challenging, but also kind of rewarding to work with, are communication with your team and really making sure that those communication channels are open, free-flowing.

4.3 Book Chat: “Listen Up”

  • If you will let me, today I would like to share a book with you and that book is called Listen Up, how to communicate effectively at work.
  • The book was written by Eunice Lemay and Jane Schwanberger.
  • Now, both authors of this book have had some really interesting positions throughout their careers.
  • One of them has also been a factory worker, a publisher, and ultimately returned to library work, and in fact, that’s where they met.
  • Working together for a public library system and you know, I thought that in libraries all you ever heard was shhh.
  • Apparently there’s a need for communications when you work together in a library system.
  • So they worked together to help bring us help with workplace communication because they saw a need in their own environment.
  • Whenever possible, it’s really nice to get what you need from a business book as quickly as possible, because you’re busy, and the point is to be able to put things to work right away.
  • What you’ll find in this book are some tips on how to really listen to others.
  • How to work through some common listening blocks such as gender, culture, generational differences and how to listen to an employee, and how to listen as a supervisor.
  • So all that’s packed into this little book, so it’s a very powerful little book here.
  • It’s really not okay for you to speak to me like that.
  • So think about saying that in your way, in your speak, I like to say in your speak, not in Margaret’s speak.
  • That’s a nice way to help soothe them and ease the situation.
  • You can’t always give them what they want and sometimes somebody who’s upset might make some demands that seem unreasonable.
  • You are trying to interact with them in a way that shows that you want to work with them, you’re willing to work with them.
  • Again, if possible give them what they need and if it’s not possible, try to ascertain which part of the solution would satisfy their needs.
  • So when you give them something partial that’s going to satisfy the area where they are the most upset, that’s something to think about.
  • Perhaps you can tell them how to further communicate their displeasure regarding the policy, giving them an avenue to be heard.
  • Now there’s an approach they use in the book that they call the FIRR technique.
  • Start with facts first and now we’re going to use this FIRR approach on co worker so let’s think about co workers.
  • When you interrupt your co workers when they are speaking it doesn’t allow us to hear all of the important different opinions that we need to discuss, so that’s facts.
  • Got a little Aretha Franklin in here R E S P E C T. You’re going to speak to the difficult person or the person you are in conflict with respectfully.
  • Then the last R you’re going to make a request, ask for what you want.
  • This is true now with clients and with co workers, leave emotions out of it as much as you can.
  • The more difficult you perceive someone to be or the more strongly feel about the conflict, the more you’re going to need to work on your emotions.
  • That’s okay, because you are who you are and we’re all people.

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