Why Won’t My Employees Talk To Me?

Why Won’t My Employees Talk To Me?

As a manager or leader, do you ever get the feeling that your team or an employee isn’t telling you something?

Have you had an experience where a team member resigns and during their exit interview they share all these things with you that you’re shocked they didn’t bring up before putting in their resignation?

These scenarios are much more common than you may believe. And while you may not think it’s important to know the pulse of your employees, communication is a key trait to being an effective and successful leader. 

When employees feel confident and comfortable enough to share, they are more productive and empowered to achieve the business results you want.

When they stop sharing or don’t feel comfortable enough to share in the first place, it’s a warning sign of unhealthy team dynamics that could eventually lead to turnover and other unproductive behaviors.

And here’s the thing. While employees aren’t required to tell you what they are thinking, successful and effective managers and leaders care what their employees are thinking.

Why Employees Aren’t Talking to You

Trust is a pivotal pillar to a strong foundation with others and within a team, and a lack of trust is the biggest barrier to employees not opening up. Building trust with your employees is essential to effective leadership and will give you the biggest ROI.

But trust is earned through effort, and that effort needs to be initiated by you. It’s your job to make sure your employees feel comfortable enough to open up. Here are some ways how to do just that:

  • Respond Respectfully: If you’re quick to judge, come off as not having enough time, interrupt others often, and respond in a negative versus genuine way, employees will see right through it. And these actions they witness will result in them withholding questions and sharing their opinions. Don’t dismiss their desire to talk, give them adequate time to share, and make them feel comfortable and valued when they speak up. 
  • Genuinely Listen: It’s important as a manager to ask questions, but if you’re not willing to genuinely listen to the answers, you will lose trust and inhibit engagement. When employees open up (about home or work), it’s important to listen carefully and empathize to build trust. Dismissing their concerns and only focusing on their work tasks will result in employees spending more time seeking the support they need, which may not be at your company anymore.
  • Schedule One-on-Ones: If there’s only one takeaway from this post, it should be this one. One-on-ones with your employees are one of the most effective tools for establishing trust, increasing productivity (and your bottom line), and avoiding non-functioning teams. One-on-ones allow for team members to open up about concerns, challenges, needs, and wants while giving you insight into how best to support them and build their trust. One-on-ones also create an environment for employees to speak up when they otherwise wouldn’t have. This allows for avoidance of possible detrimental challenges between team members, projects, or other unknown-to-you concerns to address.

One-on-ones are also a step above the so-called “open-door policy.” From experience, open-door policies are not adequate. One-on-ones allow for a dedicated amount of scheduled time for genuine conversation, sharing, and feedback. Ideally, these should be scheduled weekly but doing so monthly is okay too. Time with your team and employees will always pay back more.

There are some additional reasons an employee may not open up to you, such as if they are a new hire and adjusting to the team, and feeling everyone out. For the most part, the above reasons are the likely culprits to why your employees aren’t talking to you.

“Everyone talks about building a relationship with your customer. I think you build one with your employees first.” – Angela Ahrendts.

If you’re experiencing employees withdrawing or suppressing their opinions and not talking with you, it’s time to schedule a free 15-minute health assessment with me. In just a short amount of time, I can help identify areas of improvement to get your employees and team back on track and thriving.

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