Are Your Employees Telling You What You Want to Hear?

Do your employees trust you enough to tell you the truth to your face? Here’s a difficult lesson learned the hard way by one CEO.


Are 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 Chinsky Matuson
Human Resource Solutions

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About the author

For more than 25 years, Roberta Chinsky Matuson, president of Matuson Consulting, has helped leaders in Fortune 500 companies, including Best Buy, New Balance, The Boston Beer Company and small to medium-size businesses, achieve dramatic growth and market leadership through the maximization of talent. She is known world-wide as “The Talent Maximizer®.” Roberta, a leading authority on leadership and the skills and strategies required to earn employee commitment and client loyalty, is the author of the top-selling book, Suddenly In Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around (Nicholas Brealey, 2011), a Washington Post Top 5 Business Book For Leaders