Most workplaces (especially those with many employees) are microcosms of society as a whole. Within a company’s walls are individuals of varying ages, races, ethnicities, interests, talents, skills, and temperaments. While most organizations have a hierarchical setup (with management at the top and interns at the bottom), each employee, regardless of their role, age, or life experience has been chosen to be part of the company for a reason.
As tough as it can sometime be, the best office managers understand that employees’ cumulative differences can actually be a huge strength to an organization. Understanding that, and keeping it top of mind, is one effective strategy for dealing with the inevitable employee pushback that you’ll face from time to time. Another effective strategy is to resist the urge to tune out gripes and grumbles. You might be surprised by what happens when you really listen to what your employees have to say – whether it’s good, bad, or ugly.
What Can You Learn from Employee Push Back?
Simply put, you can learn a lot! If you’re an office manager, you’ve made it pretty high in the corporate hierarchy. You’re probably somewhat insulated from many of the daily trials and tribulations your employees face. They’re “in the trenches,” so to speak, and their experiences and perspectives are different than yours.
If you’re confronted by employees who question the status quo or prefers to march to the beat of their own drum, don’t discount their viewpoints. If you listen with an open mind, you may discover legitimate problems you weren’t aware of, creative and better ways to perform common tasks, or that an employee might be happier and more effective in a different role within your organization.
Employees Who Feel Valued and Heard Tend to be More Loyal and More Productive
You’ve probably heard the saying, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” You probably have some employees who seemingly have not gotten that message. As a manager, your priority should not be sparring with them, but rather diffusing a sticky situation with an abundance of honey. You’ll catch them off guard if, instead of squashing their opposing viewpoints, you hear them out and even draw them out by asking questions. Not only could you learn a lot, but you’ll also build up your employees’ self-esteem, confidence, and positive feelings about working in an organization that welcomes the exchange of ideas.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open!
When you foster an environment in which employees feel comfortable coming to you to express things they don’t agree with or are unhappy with, you help reduce the us-versus-them mentality that plagues so many organizations. Encouraging the free exchange of ideas and varying viewpoints will help keep your organization fresh and relevant. As long as everyone understands the ground rules – that you are open to listening to employees’ opinions about about issues or problems as long as they are delivered in a calm, rational, respectful manner – employee pushback may actually propel your organization forward!
Originally published May 2018. Updated June 2019.