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How to address a communication problem with an employee


Unfortunately, a part of business management is also conflict resolution. It can be tricky but when you have a communication problem with an employee, you have to address it. This is a dangerous area for business relations and employee moral because "communication problem" tends to be a euphemism for "personality conflict".

If you encounter a communication problem with an employee, it is important to address it as quickly as possible. "Nipping the buds" of these sorts of problems will prevent the problem from blossoming and affecting more of your team. These kind of problems never fix themselves, so do yourself a favor and get on it before if gets out of control.


When you address a communication problem, you should try to be as direct as possible. Go straight to the person and suggest that you talk. Begin the conversation by suggesting that the two of you have a communication problem and asking the employee to give his or her perspective on the problem. Sometime just the opportunity to be listened to will soothe over a lot of bad feelings. Listen to what your employee has to say and see if the two of you can agree on a solution. However, don't forget that you are the boss in this situation. Apologize if you feel like you have wronged the employee in anyway but don't lower your standards to appease hurt feelings. You need to maintain the upper hand when dealing with conflicts.

When resolving conflicts, you should employ behavior management techniques. That is a fancy way of saying that you should reward the behaviors you want the employee to repeat. You can start right after your initial meeting. Say something like, "Thank you for discussing this with me, I feel like we will be able to communicate better in the future. Be sure to come and talk to me next time before things get out of hand". Positively framing your discussion like this will encourage the employee to come and talk to you if they think a problem is arising. You would certainly rather have them coming and talking to you than talking behind your back and spreading poison in the ranks.

Do not try to address communication problems when you are angry. There is almost no line between addressing problems when you are angry and chewing an employee out. If an employee feels like he or she has been chewed out, it won't do anything to take care of your communication problem. It will only serve to make the problem worse.

Consider your role in the conflict. As a boss, it is mighty temping to try to fix your employees without considering how you can fix yourself. Almost all conflicts have two sides. Find out if you have done something to offend or embarrass the employee, if you have take responsibility for it. Your employees will have a lot more respect for you if you are the kind of boss who will say that you are wrong (when you are wrong). If you continue to have the same sort of conflict with a variety of employees, the problem might be with your management style.

The law of averages says that you are bound to hire a jerk from time to time. However, if you find that most of your employees are jerks, or are difficult to communicate with, consider that the jerk might be you. Be especially careful of this is you are going through a stressful time in your life. It is surprising how much more difficult everybody else becomes when you are going through a hard time in your personal life.

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