Communicate Effectively With Your Employees

Supervisor and manager watching plastic bottles on conveyor belt
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Providing directions for new assignments and tasks is a normal part of the role of a supervisor or manager. How you provide directions via your tone of voice, word choice, and body language go a long way towards gaining support and promoting a healthy workplace.

Effective supervisors and managers work hard to cultivate their skills in providing direction to their team members. There are many methods of communication, but there are some general practices which managers should use to ensure team members are receiving clear directions.

7 Positive Communication Practices

  • Always provide context for the task to be completed. People do their best work when they understand the importance of the task to the larger operation. When you take the time to explain the business importance of the task you are requesting to be completed, you are teaching and showing respect for the individual you asked to complete the work
  • Be specific when assigning tasks. Outline when the task must be completed and share any quality standards
  • Ask the team member to complete the tasks. Choose a respectful tone of voice, polite words and deliver the message with the appropriate volume. Contrast these statements: "Go unload that truck," and "John, the shipment on that truck is needed on the production line. Please help unload the truck before noon." There is little doubt the latter approach would be perceived as positive and the former as negative
  • Give your team a chance to ask questions. Offer the individual(s) being asked to complete the task the opportunity to clarify their questions. This step helps strengthen communication between the employee and supervisor and improves the probability of a successful outcome. The employee has the opportunity to confirm that he or she truly understands what is being asked of them
  • Trust your employees. Resist the urge to oversee or micro-manage an employee's completion of the requested task. Part of leading effectively is learning to trust that your team can complete tasks without you
  • Reinforce your employee's confidence. Offer appropriate thanks and positive feedback for jobs completed properly
  • Ensure you give constructive feedback. Offer clear, behavioral, focused feedback for any tasks that are completed improperly

Emphasize Teaching Along With Giving Directions

One of the jobs of a manager is to assess whether the task is new or complicated and merits training. If your team members have never completed a certain task before, then you may want to provide some training.

Provide instruction and then offer the opportunity for the individual to practice the task with your helpful supervision. Once the individual has developed confidence for the task, allow them to complete the work without your supervision. Check back at a later time to validate completion, timeliness, and quality. 

Offer remedial training when the individual struggles to complete the task on time or at the right quality level. 

Considerations for Communicating

Work at giving instructions in a non-aggressive tone. While certain circumstances may merit orders, resist the urge to bark at your team. Always reflect back to the times when you were receiving instructions, and how being barked at made you feel.

Try not to respond to, "Why?" with "Because I said so." Employees like to be informed. The information helps them not only organize their own work priorities but allows them to buy-in to their tasks. Buy-in refers to feeling that what they do is important, and what the company is doing is important.

Don't be vague when you are issuing instructions. Clear instructions while tasking team members will help the productivity of the team and resolve conflicts about performance afterward.

People are individuals and have other circumstances in their lives that may be affecting them. These may be personal or work-related issues. Failing to recognize that individuals may have conflicting interests with work and tasks can make communication difficult.

If you communicate clearly and show your appreciation for your team and the work they complete, your team members will know you hold them in high esteem and will respond accordingly.