What is their behaviour telling you?

Jan 23, 2013 | Good Management

Someone said to me recently that when someone is telling you something with their behaviour, the best thing you can do is listen to them.

Do you do that? Or do you get frustrated by someone’s behaviour, criticise it, try and justify it or change it without listening? I think most of us do that at least some of the time.

I had cause to apply this thinking in my business recently. I was shutting my ears to what the behaviour of someone I was working with was telling me, because I didn’t like the message.

I have now listened and acted accordingly, and in doing so, started thinking about behaviour of other people in the past, both personally and professionally, and reflecting that I could have probably dealt with issues I’ve had with people much quicker and with less angst if I had done the same. Bit of a lightbulb moment!

I then started thinking about how this might apply to employees in a business, and of course it can. Anyone who employs staff will encounter problems with those staff, however minor, simply because no one is perfect all the time! Some employee problems are easy to explain and easy to resolve, but others are not and I often encounter clients who are finding a particular member of staff incredibly frustrating. Perhaps they are not performing well, perhaps they are coming in late a lot, or being off sick a lot, or just not putting in 100%.

The natural instinct of an employer is to look at ways of correcting or punishing the behaviour, but I always find it much easier to come up with an effective solution by first finding out the reason for the behaviour. For example I advise clients who have an employee not performing well to make sure they ask the employee why this is, asking them whether any training is needed, whether there are any personal or medical issues that might be affecting their performance, so all that can be taken into account.

But actually sometimes what someone tells you in a conversation is very often not the whole picture, particularly in an employer-employee relationship, where an employee can be very guarded and defensive if feeling criticised.

So as well as asking your employee about reasons for the behaviour that’s concerning you, also just take a few moments to reflect on their behaviour itself and listen to what it might be telling you. It may be telling you someone is frustrated with their job, is not getting on with a colleague, has personal problems, is unwell, is disengaged and looking for work elsewhere. If you listen to their behaviour as well as talking to them about it, you may find it easier to accept it, change it or deal with it.

Then try it in your personal life as well!

If you would like any advice on this subject please contact us at [email protected].