Everyone sticks their foot in their mouth, even babies. As managers and business owners, how many times do we say something that creates an issue? Communication can easily create misunderstandings, disagreements, perceived ambiguity or hurt feelings. If you are like me, it happens all the time. These times can be very difficult; but also an opportunity to open a door to your employees. This is not a time to be defensive or over bearing. This is the perfect time to be transparent and vulnerable.
Employees want leadership to be approachable and willing to accept blowback
I have seen this issue create a lot of employee turnover. Almost never is it the original communication.It is the response after everyone knows there is a controversy. Employees are not expecting you to be perfect, know everything or be super human. The act of being human is a very positive act to demonstrate to your employees.
Everyone is an expert on this issue; because we all say things we regret or wished we had said differently. Once you know there is a controversy, you need to decide to confront the issue straight on. It is up to you whether it is an apology, clarification or additional information. Doing nothing is very seldom the answer.
An appropriate response will increase engagement and reduce employee turnover
Years ago, a policy was met with some stiff resistance from some of our branch offices. The policy had some points which negatively affected these branches. During a management meeting it was agreed the branches would have time to communicate their concerns. The spokesperson was one of our top branch managers. He did a wonderful job of articulating the points in a professional manner.
My boss blew up on him and created a very negative situation. All of the branch managers were now thinking they would never express opinions in the future. Obviously, this was counter to what we wanted. After speaking to my boss, he agreed he needed to apologize. The managers took it very well. It helped that we all knew my boss as someone who truly wanted to do the right thing. We also knew he would allow his emotions to get the best of him.
This issue happens multiple times a day with front line supervisors
Front line supervisors are one of the top recurring causes of turnover. Your front line supervisors must have the communications skills and maturity demonstrated by my boss. Many of them struggle with one or both.
I have found putting my foot in my mouth is very easy. Getting it back out again is another issue.