Are You Tolling Your Employees?

The other day I was reading USA Today and there was an article discussing toll roads across the United States and which states had the most toll roads. Now, if you live in a city with toll roads, you come to have a love-hate relationship with these things. I know you may be asking how you can have a love-hate relationship with a toll road, but here is how.

See, I live in Dallas and in certain parts of the city if you want to get where you are going faster and with less traffic, you take the toll road – I love the toll road for this. However depending on the toll road, I can pay upwards of $5.00+ for this convenience (which adds up over time) – I hate the toll road for this. Ultimately, this is love-hate relationship is something I have to deal with living in a bigger city and it simply has become part of every day life for me if I want to get where I am going any time soon. But as I reflected on this, I started thinking about the workplace. If you are a leader, are you tolling your employees to be able to speak with you?

What do I mean when I say “Tolling Employees”?

Let’s say that you have an employee who has come into your office to speak with you about a situation, but in order for them to be able to speak with you they have to deal with:

  • You are responding to email while speaking with them
  • You are answering the phone while they are speaking
  • Other people are popping in and interrupting the conversation
  • And on, and on

Ultimately, your employee is having to pay a toll to be able to speak with you. Instead of receiving dedicated attention, the employee has to pay a toll every time you “multi-task”. Which provides an opportunity for you to miss key information, but most importantly, impacts the relationship you have with the employee because they have are mentally and emotionally affected every time they have speak with you.

Imagine the preparation it would take every time you had to go and speak with your manager about something knowing this would be the ordeal you faced. By the time you get finished with the conversation (oh and by the way, what should have taken five minutes took 30 minutes), you feel that you have paid $10.00 worth of tolls to get some feedback or approval on something.

What Should You Do?

Managing employees is an art. It is an art because you have to learn to manage each employee differently based on their personality and need for leadership. However, all employees are the same in one regard – they need your support and attention. Therefore, the next time an employee comes in and wants to speak with you, keep the following in mind:

  • Close the door if you have the environment that allows so
  • This prevents others from popping in and interrupting the conversation
  • Step away from the email
    • If you have a seating area in your office, use this space to discuss the issue at hand with the employee. If you do not have a common seating area, then turn off your computer monitor. This will aid in managing the distractions of emails popping up and having the natural tendency to respond to them
  • Ignore the phone if it rings
    • We all have voicemail for a resason – in times you are not available. Your employee is just as important as the person calling
  • Engage with your employee
    • Providing your employee with non-verbal queues (e.g., head nods, facial expressions, which represent you are paying attention, etc.), as well as verbal queues (e.g., asking questions, confirming statements, etc.) engage your employee and let them know you are listening
  • Be mindful of yours and your employee’s time
    • At the end of the day, we are all working within the same time constraints; thus, keep the conversation on pace to utilize both yours and your employee’s time wisely
  • Encourage employees to set appointments
    • This ensures they have your dedicated time and it keeps the topic on track

    These of course are not the end all, be all of suggestions, but are the top items you can keep in mind when having conversations with your employees. Creating engaging conversations will assist in having your employees want to speak with you versus taking the dreaded toll road to get the same answer.

    So, what are you doing to engage your employees? Do you ever have a toll road they must take to engage with you?


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