Industry Market Trends

Employees Tell Managers to Shut Up and Listen

May 22, 2007

Famed French management theorist Henri Fayol said that management consists of five primary functions: planning, organizing, leading, coordinating and controlling. Yet the behavior of today's managers in several fundamental areas of practice — including listening to employees — is not meeting employees' expectations half the time, a new study says.

In researching the behavior employees seek from their managers and, in return, experience, Belgium-based training company Krauthammer International reports that managers' behaviors don't measure up to employee expectations at least half the time. In particular, managers are poor listeners and fail to provide employees with needed guidance and feedback, according to the results of a survey of people representing various industry sectors.

In the European consulting and training firm's recent report, two findings in particular stand out: first, 95 percent of employees would prefer to analyze problems together with their managers, but only 41 percent of employees say this happens; and 82 percent want their managers to listen to new ideas and encourage them to think independently, but again, this happens only 41 percent of the time.

"These potentially alarming results show that in many key tasks and basic management skills, such as guiding others, listening to ideas, securing delivery and giving feedback, managers simply fail to meet their employees' expectations," notes Ronald Meijers, Krauthammer executive board member.

In the core areas of management behavior that were surveyed, among the biggest gaps between the expectations of employees and reality were the following:

Ninety-five (95) percent would like their manager to analyze their task problems together with them.

o Forty-one (41) percent experience this.

Eighty-six (86) percent would like their manager to create the right context prior to implementing a decision.

o This is the case 42 percent of the time.

Eighty-two (82) percent would like their manager to listen to their ideas, and encourage them to continue.

o Fifty-six (56) percent experience this.

"I can't tell you how many times I've walked into businesses and seen people — OK, the leadership — walking around with their shields up," Dan Bobinski, president of Leadership Development, Inc. and director and CEO of the Center for Workplace Excellence, recently noted at's Workplace Excellence. "Don't they remember what it was like to be part of the rank-and-file? Don't they know that their employees have great ideas for how to make things better?"

On the other hand, according to the recent report, managers do seem to be closer in meeting the expectations of their employees in the following areas:

Ninety-four (94) percent would expect their manager to admit their mistakes spontaneously.

o Sixty-nine (69) percent actually do this.

Ninety (90) percent would like to be fully involved in the definition of their development goals.

o This is the case 68 percent of the time.

Eighty-three (83) percent would expect their manager to arbitrate conflicts.

o Sixty-five (65) percent of the time, this does in fact happen.

"This lack of performance obviously has a direct impact on companies' success in business itself, so these results present company executives with interesting food for thought, to say the least. The survey offers managers some unambiguous clues to ways in which their day-to-day [behavior] can contribute to improved levels of performance and trust," Meijers concluded.

Based on the results, which indicate several common pitfalls of management, a list of "golden rules" for managers has been identified alerting managers to an important series of "win areas." These include the following:

In receiving an objection, use questions (rather than defending facts) to formulate your response.

In handling dilemmas, involve employees more (rather than "chewing on them in splendid isolation").

Check your own emotions and assumptions first before giving feedback — and then deliver it without a delay (rather than either telling people off or not confronting them at all).

When communicating change, the rationale behind it is not enough — people expect both to hear what the change means for them and to get regular updates on the progress.

"For senior managers who believe that workers are trying to get away with as much as possible by doing as little as possible, perhaps — just perhaps — it's how you interact that needs a second look," said Bobinski.

Earlier: Don't Trust Your Boss? Join the Club


Management behaviour is meeting employee expectations around 50% of the time, Krauthammer study indicates

Krauthammer International, April 24, 2007

The leader's link to creativity and productivity

by Dan Bobinski (Workplace Excellence), March 8, 2007