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If you are a manager, never ask your employees these questions

Managing people is often a balancing act on many levels, not least when it comes to interacting with more junior members of staff

Take a simple question such as ‘What are you doing for lunch today?’ Between two similar-level employees, this could be a pleasant social interaction with neither suspecting any hidden meanings or agendas in either the question or the potential answers; however, this can change significantly when it is a manager asking an employee a similar question.

Without any sort of background of social interaction, the employee may question the asking of such a familiar question, even if it is merely a simple attempt by a manager to build or cement relationships within their team. The employee may resent such an ‘intrusion’ into their private time or may question what real motive their manager has in asking such a question. Are they implying that they are showing a lack of commitment by heading off somewhere for lunch or suggesting that team bonding has gone amiss because a particular employee is not joining the rest of the team for a jaunt?

This may seem like a foray into the oversensitive, but it does give an indication of the communication quandary that many managers find themselves in. Whilst it is undoubtedly beneficial to forge good relationships with team members, clumsy attempts to excessively befriend employees or to show an interest in their lives can backfire, as can any attempt to glean information or advantage from interactions with junior members of staff.

In this light, here are ten questions that managers should avoid at all costs when talking to employees, largely because they all involve putting more junior staff members on the spot or in an awkward position:

  • Are any of your colleagues hunting for a new job beyond our department?
  • Are your colleagues all doing their job?
  • What do your colleagues think of me?
  • Is anyone fighting or getting on too well?
  • After I leave for the day, who stays late?
  • Did the office couple get engaged?
  • Is Paul still taking long lunches? What do you think I should do about him?
  • Who is best at their job and who do you think is the most valuable person in the team?
  • Am I as good as your previous manager?
  • What do the people in other departments think about ours?

No one is born a manager, although there are some people who find fulfilling more senior roles easier in the short term. Even the most natural of leaders must still embark on a learning journey, however, not least when it comes to forging positive relationships with members of their team.

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