Q: In the department I manage, we have recently experienced a sudden increase in turnover. What concerns me is that none of the supervisors knew that their employees were planning to leave.
I encourage supervisors to have monthly one-on-one meetings with employees, but this apparently isn’t working as well as I had hoped. What can we do to make people open up to management?
A: You seem distressed that your former employees never confessed their desire to depart. However, smart people don’t tell management when they’re considering other opportunities.
Instead of trying to ferret out secret job-search plans, you should determine what is motivating your employees to look elsewhere. For this purpose, you need some additional tools in your communication toolbox.
When people resign in the future, make it a practice to do exit interviews. Continue the supervisory one-on-ones, but add quarterly skip-level meetings in which you chat with each employee individually. Even if people are cautious with their comments, you may spot red flags if you listen carefully.
During these conversations, consider asking current staff members why they believe people have been choosing to leave. Employees are usually much more willing to discuss others’ complaints than to reveal their own.
Finally, conduct an annual employee opinion survey using an experienced outside vendor. When people believe responses are confidential, they are much more likely to be open and honest. Then, once you have diagnosed the reasons for this turnover, you can begin to create some realistic retention plans.
Q: Our new manager is apparently having an affair with a young woman in our department. The two of them often disappear for hours at a time. This coworker used to be pleasant and helpful, but lately she has become condescending and distant.
Everyone is upset about how our office atmosphere has changed, but no one will speak up. I seem to be the only person willing to address the issue, but I don’t know how to do it diplomatically. Who should I talk to and what should I say?
A: Manager-employee romances always create problems. Talking directly with the participants is pointless, since people in the throes of lust are seldom rational. And when one of them is your boss, the risk of retribution is high.
A better option is to find someone in upper management or human resources who can sit this new manager down for a frank talk about inappropriate workplace relationships. When you meet with that person, be sure to keep the tone calm and businesslike.
For example: “We are concerned about some recent developments in our group. There’s a rumor that Mark and Beth are having a relationship outside of work. We don’t know if that’s true, but the two of them are often gone for hours, and Beth seems to have a different attitude. We’re afraid to discuss this with Mark, so we hope you can help.”
Even though your cautious colleagues would prefer to make you the sole spokesperson, they should also attend this meeting. When several people deliver the same message, management is much more likely to pay attention.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.” Send in questions and get free coaching tips at http://www.yourofficecoach.com, or follow her on Twitter @officecoach.