The bottom line, in my view, to the success of any employee relations strategy, is providing employees with a process for venting and being heard, and one that functions without repercussions. If we are honest with ourselves, we know that everyone needs to vent once in a while and to have an outlet for their frustrations and challenges at work. And, if you want to be successful in your leadership role, you will be that sounding board and resource for your team so that you always know the issues and set-backs that are occurring on your watch.

Everyone says that to have an open door is the key to success as a manager. An open door means that you are a good listener and that you are willing to receive and acknowledge ideas from your team. Having an open door does not mean that you are a floor mat however. It also does not mean that you have to give in to every whim of your team but that you must be confident enough to sort through the issues and move toward sound solution.

When you implement a “chain of command” protocol, you are putting into place an important process and steps to address workplace problems that happen right there in your own backyard. It means that you can find solutions and work out situations without having to air any dirty laundry. A good chain of command process should start with the immediate supervisor—if the person is capable and confident. Otherwise, go to the next level in the chain of command, the manager, and have them be involved and engaged in the process. 

While human resources is my field of expertise, I believe wholeheartedly that the best person to address and solve your team’s challenges is the manager in charge of that team. However, it takes a very smart and seasoned professional to be able to navigate the issues, be impartial and to not take the possible criticisms personally. All too often we have individuals in management that focus on blame and cause instead of taking a look at the root of the issue and working to find a solution. If we only could be less concerned about fault and more focused on fixing things, it would be a better place for everyone to work.

My philosophy for successful handling of employee issues is as follows…

Listen and H.E.A.R. what is going on:

H = (be a) helper

E = explain

A = ask questions 

R = resolve

Allow some time to truly assess and evaluate what is the problem—hear both sides of the issue.

Permit the concerned employee(s) to offer solutions and problem solve.

Give critical input and guidance to ensure policy, procedures and rules are followed.

Agree on the best solution for problems, as well as for the team and company.

Many in the management ranks find these employee relations processes time consuming and difficult at best. That is unfortunate! The time that you take, if it is well spent on a focused and formalized “chain of command” process, can save you time and money in the long run. Most employees who feel ignored or undervalued, spend a fair amount of their work time trying to influence others to their way of thinking. They can undermine and infect all of your productive and positive employees. So, when you address problems in a quick, fair and timely manner, you keep those naysayers from infecting your department or organization.

Maintaining a healthy work environment and productive team can be a challenging and ongoing task. But remember this: When you don’t address the issues that arise in a timely and positive manner, they only fester and grow, and over time will result in the failure of the team, your position and your intentions. Remember, keeping that open door and open mind can and does work… “A few minutes a day can keep HR away!”