“Call if you have any questions,” is often the closing comment for an onboard experience for a new employee. This short phrase, six little words could be the first step to failure for a newly hired or recently promoted individual.
As the supervisor, the team leader, it appears that we are always available;
- “just call,”
- “call anytime,
- day or night,”
- “I always have my phone with me.”
Time goes by, critical deadlines are missed or errors develop in work product. The leader is faced with correcting mistakes and missed deadlines the question hangs in the air, “Why don’t they call?”
If we consider the psychology in this situation, we have created an environment where our new employee must ask for help. Essentially, they are admitting a frustration or a failure. We have created a win lose proposition. The employee has lost, they must ask for help. Call the supervisor, admit the short coming and the answer will be given to you. A win for the supervisor, they’ve “helped.” As leaders if we anticipate deadlines and scheduled completion dates, offering help and assistance in advance, we build confidence for our new employee.
The key is in the quality or content of the question. Asking yes and no questions, will not provide much information. With an open ended question, “How can I assist you?” We can learn more about the situation.
What To Ask
A new employee might not know what help to request. They could become concerned that asking questions or requesting assistance indicates they are struggling with the new responsibility.
Asking specific questions of a new employee,
- What project were you working on today?
- Was any of it confusing for you?
- Can we provide some additional background or supporting information that would give you a broader understanding of the task?
- Why don’t you show me what you’ve completed and explain the process as you understand it.
- Which projects have completion dates for this week? Are you comfortable that you will be ready to turn in a final product before the deadline?
Long Distance Support
For trainers/supervisors not physically sharing workspace this might appear to be a difficult or time-consuming task. Placing reminders on the calendar or in Outlook, to initiate short follow-up conversations throughout the week will provide quick recaps to understand how the individual is comprehending the assigned task.
How often has a project been assigned to a new employee; when the report is submitted, it’s “all wrong.” Is this the result of the employee not preparing the report correctly? Could there have been better direction when assigning the task? Asking for feedback at the time of the assignment,
- Where will you start collecting the data needed for this?
- How do you anticipate organizing the results?
- Why don’t we meet again, at the end of the day to see how you’re organizing this project?”
Open ended questions can make sure your team member is on the right track. It could prevent frustration on a number of avenues.
Investing less than an hour a week, three or four short recaps could open doors to understanding instead of slamming them in frustration when the new employee fails, is fired or walks out.
Whether its realized or not, the “call me if you have any questions”..establishes a very uncomfortable win-lose balance. “I’m the manager, I have the answers.” The new employee has to “admit” they need help. It employs the power position of the supervisor:
-acknowledge that you need me.
-ask for intervention to fix, solve or intercede.
Creating confidence for an individual with new responsibilities, involves recognition for grasping new concepts, not limited to correcting errors. A proactive approach to employee development can establish an open and honest communication that will assist in the development of a future superstar.