4 Superb Ways to Probe for Feedback Without Your Employees Knowing

Posted by Melissa Tham on 30-Jan-2018 00:00:00

It is true that the higher you climb up the corporate ladder, the lonelier it will be and most new managers can attest to this.

They often grumble about not being able to confide in their team members or having no idea about how they are doing as a manager. When you are new on the job, you may not notice anything wrong until someone points it out or when your boss starts to doubt your judgement.

To avoid all these uncertainly, you will certainly need to open up feedback channels to make the necessary adjustments to ensure everything runs smooth.

Here, we share some useful ways to probe for feedback from your employees without them knowing your intention.

  1. Seek advice in a casual manner

In your new role as a manager, be sure to demonstrate interest in your employees’ opinions and ideas. The more you get them to share, the more likely they are to open up to you. Making small talk at work is one way to show interest in your employees and build stronger work relationships. Managers could start by taking breaks in their work day and participating in “water cooler talk”. Water cooler talk can happen at water coolers, the office pantry or the employees’ lounge when employees take a break from work to discuss non-work related stuff such as their hobbies, interests and other stuff in their lives. People are more likely to open up when the conversation is on their personal lives rather than work stuff.

Watercooler talk is also a casual setting for managers to interact with their employees as most employees are hesitant about speaking to their bosses. If you are looking to probe for specific feedback from your employees, you could try saying “If you have an idea on how I could do or say it differently, I would love to hear it” or “Your idea could help me do a better job”. Those could help you gather information in a casual manner.

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  1. Trace behavioural changes

In the process of probing for feedback from your employees, pay careful attention to how your employees relate to you.

Do they smile and are comfortable chatting with you or do they shut their mouths the moment you appear in the office pantry? Observe their body language as well as it might give you clues on how your employees perceive you. For instance, crossing their arms shows that your employees are guarded and are wary of confrontation. Subtle eye-rolling, refusing to make eye contact with you and looking miserable when you are around can be tell-tale signs of unhappiness too.  

If you notice that employees are going out of the way to avoid conversations with you, you may need to take that as a warning sign and find out what is happening. While your job as a manager is not to be liked by everyone, it is important to know how your employees feel about you. A research found that approximately half of employees have left a job “to get away from a manager.” There can be serious consequences when managers do not take the time to develop good working relationships with their employees. Thus, the bottom line is that managers need to be aware of behavioural changes in their employees on a regular basis.

 3. Stay neutral

“That was really unfair to us!” or “I wish he could treat us better”
You may hear things about yourself that may upset you or throw you off path. No one is immune to receiving or hearing negative comments about ourselves, especially if you are a figure of authority. There will always be people who judge and criticize you.

Be prepared to listen without lashing out at anyone. Rather than making a big hoo-ha, approach it in a graceful manner without appearing defensive. Embrace the feedback with the mindset that “I am so lucky to learn about this now, rather than later”. This would prompt employees to talk more and give you valuable information you might otherwise miss out on. If you had indeed been unfair in your practices or made a mistake, win employees back on your side with sincerity. Most of the time, it turns out that employees just want to be assured that you are looking out for them and that you care.

  1. Develop a formal feedback channel

A 360 degree feedback system is a process where it enables employees to provide feedback on various aspects of the company such as their supervisors or workflow processes.
It is sometimes conducted anonymously and people may be more willing to give their input in such instances. This may be useful for you as a new manager to have an overview of the strengths and weaknesses of your department and to spot trends and work on problem areas that are highlighted by employees.

360 feedback does not solely focus on performance, but aspects that can be attributed to an employee’s behaviour. Therefore, it is a good way to find out about your “blind spots”, such as the difference between how employees perceive you versus how you perceive yourself. You might also discover things about yourself that you would never had known otherwise.

 We hope that this article is helpful. Do you have any tips you would like to add?

Let us know in the comments and please share this post with a friend/colleague if you enjoyed it!


Topics: New Manager Essentials

Written by Melissa Tham