ca. 2001 --- Female Executives Meeting in a Conference Room --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

The Benefits of Being “Nosy” in Handling Employee Relationships

As CEO or owner of your company, it isn’t often that you get caught up in inter- or intra-office relationships.  You usually let your department heads, supervisors or HR handle any issues.

There are times, however, when it is wise to be a little bit more “nosy.”  For example:

  • When you notice that production has inexplicably dropped.
  • When there has been an up-tick in the number of workers being written up for infractions.
  • When normally up-beat employees are walking around gritting their teeth and mumbling under their breath.
  • When supervisors are frantically racing around, tearing their hair out.

All right, this last point is an exaggeration, but you know what I mean.  You can tell if something seems “off” when it comes to interpersonal relationships within your company.  If things don’t feel right, they probably aren’t, and it is absolutely critical that you check them out immediately.

When your instincts tell you that something is amiss, call a meeting with the supervisors of the departments that seem to be affected.  Usually it won’t take long for your people to explain the problem.  It might be an employee who was angry at being passed over for a promotion, or a worker who is slacking off and making the job harder for his co-workers.  If your supervisors have been following protocol to handle an employee who is causing a problem, but is it still unresolved, you may decide it is necessary to step in yourself.

Sometimes, however, the real problem is a supervisor or team leader. If an employee feels he is being unfairly treated or not given credit for work he has done, he may be letting his feeling be known throughout the office or department.  This kind of discord can have long-term repercussions if not resolved as soon as possible.  If the chain of command has been unsuccessful in fixing this, you need to arrange a one-on-one talk with him or her.  It can be informal, like taking a walk or meeting over a cup of coffee.  How you handle this depends on how large your company is, the type of business it is and what kind of relationship you already have with this person (if any).

Smaller companies generally have dynamics similar to a family’s, so knowing each other’s temperaments is an advantage.  In larger companies, there are more middle men.  This complicates things.  The employee may have an immediate supervisor who answers to the department head or general manager, etc.  If your company has a Human Resources department, it makes resolution more formal.

Whatever your business size or model, it is still smart to be “nosy” (in a good way), so that you can sniff out problems before they start to adversely affect your company.  Coming by unannounced once every week or so and chatting informally with individual employees and supervisors will help you test the health of your company.  Make sure that your office managers, supervisors, department heads and HR officers are fully trained on how to handle specific situations.  Also let them know that, if they can’t settle the issue by procedure, they can feel free to bring the problem to you.

You are super busy, but personally checking the pulse of your company every few weeks is well worth the time and effort.  All it takes is putting periodic casual “walk-throughs” on your schedule, observing how your employees interact with each other and with supervisors, and striking up conversations with them.

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