Are Your Employees Telling You What You Want to Hear?

whisperingAre your employees telling you the truth or what they think you want to hear? Case in point. The other day I was speaking with a CEO who proudly mentioned that his employees were quite happy. I pushed back by asking him how he knew this. He said that he had personally visited each location and that his employees had no complaints.

The next week, while in conversation regarding an upcoming event, he shared with me that he had just received results from a recent employee climate survey. Let's just say that what his people were telling him and what they were putting down on their responses to the survey were totally at odds with one another. It was as if he had spent time visiting people from an entirely different organization. Needless to say, he was disappointed to learn that his employees didn't feel comfortable sharing their concerns directly with him and that he had no idea this was the way his workforce really felt about their jobs and the company.

My hat is off to this organization for it has several things going for them. First, the CEO really took this to heart. He really wants his people to be happy. Not just because this happiness will translate to employee retention, improved sales and increased profitability. But, because he is the type of leader that really cares about his people. He also recognizes that he cannot keep his head in the sand. The last two years this survey was run, his organization received stellar reviews. Yet, he still insisted on moving forward with another survey, to make sure things were still fine.

Now he has the daunting task of analyzing the results and determining what areas he will focus on to bring the engagement level back up to an acceptable level. He will have to look inside himself to determine why the level of trust has diminished in his organization. And most importantly, he will have to make some changes to ensure that the next time he meets with his employees, they tell him what he needs to hear, rather than what they think he wants to hear.

I welcome your comments.

Roberta

Roberta Chinsky Matuson
President
Human Resource Solutions
413-582-1840
Roberta@yourhrexperts.com
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6 Comments

  • Roberta Matuson

    Thank you all for your comments. It is clear to me that it is now time for this CEO to take a step back so that he can identify at what point trust has broken down in his organization. This will allow him to begin to repair any damage that has been done. I suspect this situation didn't happen overnight and that this will not be a quick fix.

  • Aman Sharma

    The question here is, why do the employees not share true opinion? More often than not, it is the hierarchy in between that is unwilling to expose its own inadequacies. In fact, a true opinion shared invites vindictive behavior, which the employees dread.

    In many instances, even the CEO himself is unwilling to hear or accept a negative feedback. This is especially true in case the feedback being provided pertains to his own pet project, which he would have defended vehemently and emotionally with his Board of Directors.

  • Aman Sharma

    The question here is, why do the employees not share true opinion? More often than not, it is the hierarchy in between that is unwilling to expose its own inadequacies. In fact, a true opinion shared invites vindictive behavior, which the employees dread.

    In many instances, even the CEO himself is unwilling to hear or accept a negative feedback. This is especially true in case the feedback being provided pertains to his own pet project, which he would have defended vehemently and emotionally with his Board of Directors.

  • Aman Sharma

    The question here is, why do the employees not share true opinion? More often than not, it is the hierarchy in between that is unwilling to expose its own inadequacies. In fact, a true opinion shared invites vindictive behavior, which the employees dread.

    In many instances, even the CEO himself is unwilling to hear or accept a negative feedback. This is especially true in case the feedback being provided pertains to his own pet project, which he would have defended vehemently and emotionally with his Board of Directors.

  • Andrew Rudin

    Roberta: thanks for sharing this compelling story. That candor is missing from the workplace isn't earth shattering. What's atypical is management's sincere desire to overcome the problems that occur when people don't feel free to openly discuss their problems, challenges, concerns, and opinions.

    In my experience, managers have created the problem by displaying a hubris in meeting after meeting: "Don't bring me your problems, bring me solutions." With that edict, companies are prone to a myriad of risks. The headlight of an oncoming catastrophe could be plainly visible in the tunnel, and personnel wouldn't mention it for fear of being perceived as troublemakers.

    Managers must turn this around. It starts at the top. A CXO who candidly submits how he has listened to a concern--however large or small--and taken decisive action to mitigate the problem will be more successful than one who perfuntorily asks for opinions at the quarterly staff meeting. That's like putting lipstick on a pig.

  • John Agno

    Roberta,
    You just illustrated why "CEO disease" is so common today. Engaging in straight talk with those who lead Corporate America is a rare occurrence.

    C-level executives tend to be isolated from their corporate stakeholders because most of the information they receive is filtered by subordinates, suppliers, and consultants. "CEO disease" is a term used to describe the isolation that envelops a leader when subordinates become reluctant to disclose bad news or worst-case scenarios that might trigger a shoot-the-messenger response.

    However, that is beginning to change as c-level executives seek a cure for "CEO disease" by participating in interactive conversations through their personal blogs.