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Survey: Majority of managers are uncomfortable with communication (aka doing their jobs)

To be a good manager to the employees you’re in charge of, you need to be a strong communicator to your employees about your expectations, deadlines, and goals. But a new Interact survey recently highlighted by Harvard Business Review found that the majority of managers are uncomfortable doing… just these things. Otherwise known as doing their jobs.

Survey: Managers uncomfortable with giving any feedback to their employees

The Interact survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults found that 69% of the managers admitted that they were often uncomfortable communicating with employees. Over a third of managers surveyed said that they were uncomfortable giving direct feedback about their employees’ job performance if they thought the employees would take it badly.

Basic communication skills like “giving clear directions” and “speaking face to face” were also listed as stressors that made managers uncomfortable. Twenty percent of managers surveyed said that the thought of needing to deliver the “company line” about an employer’s change in direction made them uncomfortable.

Even positive feedback caused managers stress. Twenty percent of managers surveyed said that recognizing achievements and crediting employees who had good ideas was uncomfortable for them.

How to get better at uncomfortable management tasks…

Without regular feedback, teams fall apart. To be effective at a managerial job, you need to avoid the fate of these surveyed managers and get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Here’s how to be a strong communicator and better at giving feedback — even when you need to deliver bad news:

1) Make it a regular part of your day

In order to get over your nerves with communication, you need to be regularly practicing feedback. That way, feedback becomes a habit, not an infrequent obligation you shirk. One way to do this is to schedule consistent one-on-one meetings with employees that you don’t cancel. If you are regularly asking for and receiving feedback from your reports, you’ll notice minor problems before they become difficult conversations.

Lara Hogan, Kickstarter’s VP of Engineering, suggests that managers should ask their new employees about their communication styles to avoid surprises. How do they like to receive feedback? Hogan said that she asks her employees, “What makes you grumpy? How will I know if you’re grumpy? How can I help you when you’re grumpy?” in their first feedback meetings.

2) Be direct and clear

If you’re nervous with communicating bad news to your employees, you may beat around the bush during your discussion. But that only prolongs suffering. The kind and professional action is to be direct with your communication to employees.

To avoid miscommunication, managers need to err on the side of over-communication and should delegate instructions tailored to the perceived work competence of the employee.

3) Make feedback a learning opportunity

Communication becomes less scary when you reframe it not as a battle to overcome, but as a ongoing dialogue that should benefit both sides.

“Ideally a direct feedback conversation is meant to spark learning on both sides — managers and employees must understand the situation together in order to make positive change,” Interact’s Lou Solomon recommends.

The bottom line

When managers talk to their employees, everyone wins. Surprises get avoided and team members feel heard.

“Respectful, direct feedback restores the individual and the team to sanity. It costs absolutely nothing except an emotional investment of honesty, taking the risk of a bad reaction…and being uncomfortable,” Solomon says.

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