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How do you talk to your employees?

7 Dec 2015 - Blog

How do you talk to your employees?

We’ve all done it; been in a bad mood, in a rush, had a conflict with a sales person and demanded to see the manager – only to find you’ve been talking to the manager all along.

It’s a bit embarrassing.

You’ve been a bit bolshy, authoritative, which you might not have been if you’d realised who you were talking to….


I did this last week in a retail shop on the high street. Feeling rather silly I apologised for ‘treating the owner as a member of staff’. But her response got me thinking. She said:

“Goodness, I’m not important, it’s the team that make this place what it is.”

After this revelation, I thought about my actions – treating people differently depending on how I perceived their hierarchy in the organisation, and told myself off. What was also interesting was the manager’s reaction regarding her staff. I was pretty sure the manager’s attitude towards her team was one of the reasons why the staff seemed so enthusiastic, engaged.

Unconscious Bias

We are all guilty of adjusting our tone to suit our perceptions of the person we’re communicating with; it’s an unconscious bias, and it’s human nature. However, such behavior can impact on the quality of the interactions and relationships we have with employees. Our tone, spoken language and body language can all influence how appreciated or respected the person we’re speaking with feels during the interaction, and this can impact their motivation and engagement for future interactions and their work.

Reverse Heirarchy

The manager’s response was a good example of a reverse hierarchy, whereby leaders attempt to flip the hierarchical pyramid that often occurs in organisations.
When a reverse hierarchical approach is implicit, leaders and managers often see employees as peers, or even decision makers, while they take more of an advisory role to be called on when needed. The result is employees feel valued and recognised for their input and employee engagement tends to increase.

Simple adjustments to our tone and language can have dramatic effects on the impact of our communication. Being conscious of our biases and communicating respectfully with employees, whatever their hierarchical position, helps to keep employee engagement levels high and makes for a happier, more productive workplace.


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