InterAksyon.com means BUSINESS
Thank you for writing and maintaining such a unique advice column for rank-and-file workers. But I guess your “Coward’s Inbox” column could be made irrelevant only if all managers are honest enough to give sincere and accurate answers to ordinary workers which is impossible anyway. Now, how do we ask the right questions to elicit convincing answers from management? – Still Hopeful.
It’s not easy. Aside from raising those questions, the situation calls for a work environment that sets the tone for a mutually-satisfying and trustworthy relationship with management. What I’m saying is that in communication, your greatest enemy isn’t just your reluctance to raise questions but the noise all around you -- the noise you create, wittingly or unwittingly.
Let me tell you this. Why do people ask these questions during golf: “Did you lose your ball?” or “Did you find it yet?” when you’re out in the rough looking for it. What do they think you’re doing out there – checking on the fire ants or something?
Why do people ask a car driver who’s trying to dig out of a heavy rain and flood, “Are you stuck?” One feels like answering, “No, my car died and I want to give it a decent burial.” Or wet, disgusted, irritated, with a flat tire on a rainy night beside a busy road, why is one asked: “Have you got a flat tire?” Then you may feel like giving a curt reply – “Oh, no,” you may feel like replying, “Of course not, I always rotate my tires at night on a busy road when it’s raining.”
We often hear these wrong questions that elicit equally wrong answers. Therefore, the questions you ask will largely dictate the response you get when you’re trying to get to the bottom of something. Depending on how your character is perceived by management and if you ask vague or misleading questions, chances are you’ll only get evasive answers.
This can also happen if you think that an unpleasant consequence will result. Even routine matters can turn into a confusing situation if the questions are not carefully framed. And of course, as you can imagine, the trick is in asking the right questions that don’t put management on the defensive.
In doing this, the following techniques should not only help get the answers you seek, but also promote a greater sense of transparency in communicating with your bosses:
- Start or restart with an excellent work performance. And be consistent with it. If you’re a highly-dependable worker with no ill-motive against management, you can get all the cooperation you want for the legitimate questions that you’ll be asking. Otherwise, if you’re doing something that management doesn’t like, and then it’s almost sure that they will be overly-cautious in giving you honest answers.
- Ask soft-ball questions that will put management at ease. Don’t start with questions about a sensitive issue like salary disparity, bypassed promotion, comparative work performance among employees, or distribution of bonuses. Instead, first ask simpler questions that will help you establish rapport with your boss. Your success or failure to ask decent questions depends to a large extent on knowing how you are being perceived by management and the nature of your questions.
- Change the situation or give another try on other occasions, if you’re not getting the right answers. Sometimes, management misinterprets seemingly simple questions because they’re mentally preoccupied with something else and the office physical arrangement is not conducive to an open, proactive communication process. To avoid this, ask the boss if he’s not too busy to accommodate your questions.
- Stick to open-ended questions only, rather than close-ended ones. For instance, if you want to know about your progress as an employee or how you’re doing your job, then say something like, “Boss, I am very much interested in helping you accomplish our departmental tasks. So far, how am I meeting your expectations?” By showing how you give importance to your mutual interest with the boss will surely give you a clear hint on how you are being perceived by management.
- Phrase your questions so that it will be easier for the boss to reply positively. For example, volunteer to do other tasks for management: “Boss, I’ve just completed doing Project X, would you like me to help you in Project Y?” It is one instance when you can use a close-ended question to your advantage and discover how management could react. It will be harder for your boss to refuse, since he must come up with a good excuse for it.
DO YOU WANT TO CHALLENGE THIS ADVICE? This article is for non-management people who can’t raise an issue directly against their bosses for fear of reprisal or job insecurity. Send your comments or workplace questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow Rey Elbo on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for his random management thoughts.
InterAksyon.com means BUSINESS