Responding to Employees’ Questions

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Analytics, Computer, Hiring, Database

Asking questions to collect knowledge is a significant learning way of workers at all levels of a company, and it a significant duty of the manager to assist them. She might have tried one or more ways to address the issue, but they did not resolve the circumstance. It does not matter what sort of challenge the worker is facing – it could be an imperfect product coming in the production process, a client complaint she can not solve, a line of programming code she can not get to work, or a medical process about which she is unsure. Your goal as a supervisor ought to be not merely to get the problem resolved, but also to help the employee understand how to address similar problems in the future.

These kinds of situations arise each day, often multiple times a day. So, as a supervisor, how do you react? Here are a few common responses that workers frequently hear from their managers.

“Do not bother me.
“Just leave it together and I will look after it.”
“Why not ask Fred or Mary to demonstrate the way you can do that?”
“Here is what you will need to perform”
“Let me show you how you can do that.”
“What do you feel you ought to do?”
Let us look at each answer from the view of both the supervisor and the worker.
“Do not bother me.
As a supervisor, you have a great deal on your plate. Maybe you believe this employee already knows how to answer the question or solve the issue, but is relying too much on your assistance – maybe she does not possess the self-assurance to address the issue without getting your approval first. Or, maybe, you already answered a similar query for this worker several times and believe that the worker needs to have the ability to extrapolate the ideal answer from different answers you have already given.
From your perspective as a manager, this response will eliminate a possible time-sink and make it possible for you to work on things you think more significant. Having received this answer, the employee has three choices:

She can think of a solution that may or may not work. If it works, that is excellent. If it does not work, she can blame her boss for not helping her. From the managerial perspective, this isn’t an optimal solution – the issue may not have solved, and the worker has learned nothing about how to fix such problems herself later on, so she’ll keep on coming to you each time she confronts a problem.
She can go to somebody else in the group to find out if they could help her – maybe they’ve faced this situation before and know how to address the issue. This may or may not lead to a successful resolution, based on the knowledge and expertise of the individual she approaches and their willingness to assist her.
She is able to abandon the issue, feeling that when the manager does not think it significant enough to help her resolve, it should not be crucial. This isn’t a very satisfying outcome for the worker – the challenge is not getting solved and whoever depends on her job, be it a client, a supplier, or any other internal or external person or group, is stuck with the issue and no solution. Additionally, it should not be a satisfying result for the boss – there’s a problem where your team is responsible that isn’t getting solved, and the worker feels that you’re not supporting her.
“Just leave it together and I will look after it.” The supervisor knows how to address the issue and can do it quickly without needing to take the time to describe the solution to the employee. Additionally, it guarantees that the problem will get fixed correctly (at least in the supervisor’s view).
But how can the worker feel when this occurs? He might be relieved that the does not need to be worried about the issue anymore and can move on to other work where he feels more capable. But he may also feel dejected because he believes he should have been able to address the issue and by taking it to his supervisor, he’s admitting weakness. The last common sense invoked from this reaction it that the manager does not value the worker enough to explain the response and instruct him how to address these problems in the long run.

“Why not ask Fred or Mary to demonstrate the way you can do that?” As a manager, you’re recognizing that the employee should learn how to resolve the issue, and are delegating responsibility for instructing the worker to another of your workers. Assuming that Fred or Mary is willing and able to instruct the worker, this is a fantastic solution. It guarantees that the problem will get solved (supposing that Fred and Mary know how), the worker will learn the proper process, and it does not take time from the other managerial work.
“Here is what you will need to perform”
Simple. Straightforward. Gets the problem resolved.
And, sometimes, it’s essential. When there is an immediate threat or if the situation demands an immediate answer, this will find the job done. Similarly, if you’re in the control room of a nuclear power plant and alarms start ringing, you do not need to take a whole lot of time talking what you need to do – you want to act immediately.

For the employee, there’s very good relief – that the issue will now get solved. Assuming the employee keeps the memory of this situation and the answer to that circumstance, she may have the ability to replicate the solution if the exact same problem arises again. But has the worker really learned anything?

The best strategy for the supervisor in this situation is to get the problem solved by issuing a directive, but to sit down with the employee to describe how to diagnose similar issues in the future and how to derive the appropriate solution. That is, to instruct the worker.

Here the supervisor is taking the opportunity to teach the worker how to resolve problems, to develop the worker’s abilities for the future. The supervisor’s explanation can be short (“Do these measures.”) Or it may take more time if the supervisor instructs the worker on the best way best to consider the issue, what alternatives to think about, and how to pick the best of these alternatives. This reaction takes more of the supervisor’s time than some of the previous answers, but it will lead to more understanding and a greater likelihood that the next time the worker faces a similar situation, he or she’ll have the ability to diagnose and resolve the issue without requiring more of the supervisor’s time.
“What do you feel you ought to do?”
This is a training response, instead of a directive or instruction response. It can be helpful when:
You, as the manager, do not know the answer or are interested in exploring possible answers together with the worker.
You believe the employee can think of a fantastic solution himself, but does not possess the self-confidence to do so. It’s intended to empower the worker, as Judith Ross said in her Harvard Business Review blog. She suggests that managers who use enabling queries”create value in one of more of these manners:
They produce clarity:”can you describe more about the circumstance?”
They build better working relations: Rather than”Can you make your revenue goal?”
They challenge assumptions:”What do you feel you will lose should you start sharing responsibility for the implementation procedure?”
They make ownership of alternatives:”According to your experience, what do you suggest we do here?” It doesn’t suggest that the manager does not know what to do, although training questions can help both the worker and the supervisor analyze an issue if neither of these has a ready solution. Asking coaching questions should not be used to induce an employee to pick the solution that the supervisor already has in mind – a supervisor shouldn’t keep asking the worker to indicate a solution and maintain the worker imagining at alternative answers until the worker comes up with the one that supervisor wants – that is not coaching, it is manipulation.

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