Let's hit on one more specific type of conversation that comes up with our folks. Let's call him...
Your employee starts asking questions that seem to be of a very generic nature. “How long does it take for someone to get promoted to a senior level?” “What are the company’s policies regarding merit increases or bonuses?” “How are reserved parking spaces assigned?” As the Encyclopedia Manageria that you are, you may be tempted to respond with a recitation of company policy. “Look what I know!”
Inasmuch as you might think you’ve successfully administered the treatment, you may have completely misdiagnosed the disease. Sure, sometimes these questions really can be taken at face value. But frequently the questioner is really “nibbling” around the edges of the issue. He may phrase the question as a generic query, but he’s actually asking something very specific about his own situation.
In the above examples, the employee might really be asking, “When do you think I will be eligible for a promotion?” or “Will I be getting a raise or bonus this year?” or “Why don’t I have a reserved parking spot?” He could be asking based on how someone else was treated, trying to deduce if similar treatment would be coming his own way. In the case of an explicit “How do project bonuses work?” question, the implicit query might really be, “Why did Jack get a project bonus and I didn’t?”
We have already discussed the importance of ensuring the employee has communicated everything he has to say. In “nibbling” situations, you must realize that the question the employee has asked might not really be what’s on his mind at all! To decipher what he’s really concerned with, try to relate the explicit question to current circumstances and recent events. Take into account your previous experiences and interactions with this particular person, and then begin the discussion. Your employee will be amazed that you were able to get to the real source of his concern, and he’ll be pleased to get his real questions answered. Plus, he’ll come away from the discussion seeing that you really care about him personally.