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How to Speak to your Employees: Effective Tips


The task of being a boss or a manager is a difficult one as you are the one responsible for bringing out your employee’s best to produce better results for your company. The people working under you will always want to please you and keep you happy. While this is an added advantage and adds to the motivation of the employees to work harder, it is important for you as the boss or the manager to communicate your needs clearly to the employees of your company.

how speak to employees

If a boss or a manager fails to speak up, he/she fails to run the company smoothly. There will be outbursts of frustration and a much closed out environment in the office, which acts a barrier between the boss and the employees.

It is indeed difficult to communicate everything directly to people under you, as sometimes it is the employees who don’t want to open up. While it is important to keep certain tips on how to speak to your employees, it is more important first to know why your employees don’t open up or speak to you openly.

Why Employees Are Afraid to Speak?

It is an extremely common scenario in a workplace for workers to shut off and avoid speaking openly to the managers and the managers to the boss.

It seems they go by the saying, “When in doubt, keep your mouth shut.” Let us probe on some reasons due to which employees are afraid to speak.

1. They feel it is not safe to open up:

Most employees are scared to challenge the traditional methods of doing things. Surprisingly, most employees are not scared to open up about problems but are hesitant to convey creative ideas which would have actually benefitted the company.

To them the risk of being rendered useless by giving ideas was more certain than the possibility of benefitting the company in future.

2. Bad past experiences:

There are many cases where employees had been open initially but later had been subjected to hostilities by the managers or the bosses which later affected their overall self confidence so deeply that they completely shut themselves off.

In such cases, employees are hesitant even to communicate about major problems in the workplace or about some important project.

3. Scared to lose their job or ‘Herd mentality’:

They are inhibited by cultural myths about the workplace. Most feel, playing safe by not complaining about problems to their higher officials would guarantee their stay in the company for a longer period of time.

They must have seen someone speaking up and losing their job the very next day. Therefore, they form a herd and decide on keeping shut to safeguard their jobs.

4. Absence of ownership culture:

People bother only about things they own or people they hold close to their heart. The same holds true for employees. Oftentimes they feel that the project belongs to a certain X and their suggestions would not be entertained by him/her.

To avoid rejection, the employees do not interfere. Additionally, they might feel that it is a certain person’s problem therefore they are not in charge to solve it.

5. In order to avoid insulting the boss unintentionally:

Often employees have the perception of a boss or a manager to be that of a perfect man. By giving constructive ideas in front of everyone, they feel that they are insulting the boss by undermining his intelligence and feel that the boss would be embarrassed by being corrected or improved by someone who is at a lower rank than him.

Now that you know the reasons why employees don’t speak up, it would be beneficial for you as the boss or the manager of your company to initiate conversation. This is sometimes a difficult, awkward task and you might feel uneasy doing it but these tips are going to help you sail through in the most difficult of situations.

How to Communicate With Employees So They Will Listen?

1. Be respectful:

You should talk to your employees the way you would like to be spoken to by them. Respect is earned, not given. Therefore, respect your employees to make them feel comfortable about their position at work. This will help them open up and make talking to them easier for you.

2. Be attentive:

It is very important to be an active listener while you are talking to your employees. They will pay attention to you only when you are attentive to their words. It is always a give and take policy. An active listener is always a better speaker and a problem solver.

3. Provide variations:

Sometimes it is difficult for a boss to speak about everything openly in a working environment or even when many other workers are present in the situation. Therefore, there should always be different options to speak to employees.

Worrying about saying something inappropriate, about being put down are general reasons for speaking being difficult. One on one conversation and informal places for speaking about problems like cafe’s are good solutions.

4. Target the opinion leaders:

Sometimes it is difficult to address an issue to the whole team without raising conflicts, if the team size is huge. Almost every workplace has one influencer whose words are deemed wise by other employees.

If you are a smart boss or a manager, you can easily spot this influencer or opinion leader among other employees. Explain and convince that one person and your whole team is bound to be convinced.

5. Be genuinely interested:

Whenever you have a meeting with a group of employees or even a one on one conversation, set aside a few minutes to ask them about their well being and whether they are facing any problems or issues at the office. This will make them feel that you are genuinely interested in their lives as a human being and not just as a boss.

6. Organize ‘conversational’ meetings:

Hold certain meetings with the sole purpose of discussing creative ideas by your employees, their problems and grievances. Talk to them about everything else unrelated to projects.

You can even discuss and take their suggestions on team building activities. Do not discuss work in these meetings. This creates a feeling of brotherhood and they will love you as their boss or manager.

7. Express your gratitude:

Say a kind word or two everyday to your employees. When you are happy and satisfied with something they have done, do not conceal it. Express your satisfaction. Praise them in public and make them feel important.

8. Do not insult them while speaking to them:

No one takes insult lightly. Your workers may not insult you back as they work under you but insulting them would lower your standards in front of them and you have a good chance of losing respect and getting a silent treatment from your employees.

Always be gentle. If you are unhappy about something, explain it to them calmly so that they do not repeat it again.

9. Incorporate humor in your speech:

No worker likes a boring lecture. There is always a distance between the boss and an employee. The easiest way to deal with it is using humor in your conversation. Do not scare them away by always stressing on the seriousness of a project or its deadline.

They are anyway too stressed out always. Using humor makes you seem more approachable and workers will actually listen to everything you say.

10. Keep your questions open-ended:

Do not be specific about your questions. For example, do not ask “Are the files ready?” To which the answer would be a yes or a no and that’s it. Instead ask “What about the project?” This way you are bound to get more information than yes/no the files are/not ready.

Close ended questions are questions that only can have yes or no as answers are serious conversation killers while open ended questions open the conversation wide.

11. Start a one on one but diffuse in gradually:

While one on one conversation is necessary for a deep private conversation, sometimes it may come across as an unpleasant interrogation.

Start with a one on one but gradually after the important part is over, discuss general topics and call in the other members to participate. Psychologically, this makes the employee feel exclusively important and not a subject of interrogation.

12. Do not create an atmosphere of nitpicking:

As a boss or a manager you will obviously have several more years of experience than your employees and might know the correct way of doing everything. It is not important for your employees to know that though. Comment only on major faults but ignore unimportant criticizing.

Do not overly criticize your employees by pointing out even the smallest of mistakes. Let them learn naturally from their mistakes as you have.

How to Talk to Employees About Professionalism:

Speaking about professionalism is most important. Professionalism is a crucial factor in the workplace and you cannot take for granted that all employees are going to understand it without you guiding them. It determines how you dress, behave and speak in the workplace.

Professionalism has to start from the top and go down to the bottom. The boss and the managers of the company should in the first place practice it, to set an example for the employees’ to follow up.

How to Speak to Employee About Attitude:

These are ways you can use to speak to your employees in general but there is another side to it. Every office has some difficult employees on board. These employees have what we call as a bad attitude or an attitude problem.

You have to be tactful and cautious as a manager or a boss when speaking to such employees. Here are some guidelines you can follow.

1. Try to find out the reason behind their bad attitude:

When you arrange for a meeting with a difficult employee, try to counsel them into opening up and revealing to you any serious reason or mishap in his/her life which has caused this problem.

If there is a reason and it is a serious one, be gentle and cure him/her with good behavior and love. If there is no reason, you need to be strict now.

2. Be assertive and direct:

Be very clear about the behavioral tendencies of the employee which you cannot tolerate and explain how badly it is affecting you and the working of your organization. This is an uncomfortable step and often neglected by managers to avoid conflict but you need to realize that one apple in the basket spoils all. Therefore, direct communication of his/her faults is very important.

3. Guide them:

While speaking directly about things which you would not tolerate, it is also important to speak about the acceptable behavior traits.

It takes some time, for some otherwise very good employees to learn professionalism. List out what is desirable, like helpfulness, punctuality, politeness, courteousness, cooperation etc

4. Speak up immediately and also let them speak:

Speak up as soon as you spot a negative behavior trait. Don’t keep it to address later in a meeting. If you act instantly, the employee will find it harder to make up and explain untrue reasons. Though this is not true for some employees.

Let them speak, as they might not be doing it purposely. They might not be realizing that the behavior is unacceptable. Listen and then explain.


Speaking as a boss and also encouraging your employees to speak up is therefore an easy process if you keep these things in mind. Removing barriers, putting up suggestion boxes or having a grievance cell are not the only things that will help you mostly.

It is when you make employees feel safe and come across more as a friend and guide to them rather than a dictatorial boss, that speaking becomes close to second nature.