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The Alternative Board Blog

The Most Important Things Your Employees Aren’t Telling You

Dec. 3, 2015 | Posted by The Alternative Board
Employees talking in corridor of business center


At The Alternative Board, we encourage business owners to maximize their employees through effective delegation. This allows business owners more time to focus on bigger picture items, as well as unplug more often. While delegation is an instrumental tool, it’s not an excuse to let your business grow out from underneath you. The key to staying on top of your business is tuning in to your employees.

Employees are the eyes and ears of your business. They’re your front line. In fact, there’s a good chance they know more about your day-to-day operations than you do. Equipped with this knowledge, they may just hold the secrets to overcoming your business’s biggest obstacles.

Here are the most important things your employees aren’t telling you:

  1. They’re exercising quantity over quality.
    Startups are notorious for a lot of hat-wearing. While this can create several advantages for employees, such as a more diverse workload and collaborative environment, it also runs the risk of overload. When employees are overburdened with too many responsibilities, too many clients, or simply too much work, their first reaction isn’t always to discuss potential ramifications with their supervisor. Instead, they switch into fight or flight mode and do their best to take on as much as they can. After all, the majority of employees are looking to do the best possible job without having to bother the boss too much.
    Of course, more work very rarely leads to better work.

    As the leader, it’s up to you to identify when your employees are working towards quantity rather than quality. If your employees approach you with workload complaints, don’t try to calculate the exact amount of time it takes them to complete each task and then prove how that fits perfectly into a 40 hour work week. Instead, ask them why certain tasks are taking too much time, how you can streamline them as a company, and work with them to find solutions.

  2. They’d like more responsibility, but also more flexibility.
    There’s a good chance your employees want more responsibility, but they don’t know how to ask for it and fear it will eliminate whatever work life balance they have left. There’s also a good chance, they’d like to take an hour off in the middle of the day to pick up their kids from school. Of course, they’ll silently sit at their desks resenting you for not offering either – but how were you supposed to know?Here’s one way of looking at it: remember why you got into business ownership in the first place? Most likely, it was because you wanted to do things your way, on your own terms. And what was the result? You worked harder than ever and were never more passionate. This is the kind of environment you need to create for your staff – one where each employee feels like the owner of his/her position.

    The best way to create an entrepreneurial work culture is to regularly schedule 1-on-1s between you (or management) and your employees. Make sure to ask them questions about how they’d like to grow within the company and what day-to-day frustrations are distracting them from producing their most productive work. As employees become more trusted and integral parts of the company, reward new responsibilities with greater flexibility, like occasionally working from home or providing them with a budget to spearhead a new project of their choosing.

  3. There’s something glaringly wrong with your business, and everyone knows it but you. 

    If you’re losing clients right and left and employees are dropping like flies, it’s probably not them – it’s you. The secret to avoiding this fate is looking for patterns. If more than one employee approaches you or management with a similar concern, there’s a good chance they’re not crazy, and something needs to be fixed. The key here is never to be defensive with employees.

    Business owners have to make a lot of tough decisions, and it’s understandable to get frustrated when employees question them. Never negate employee problems. Instead ask them to come back to you with a proposal for implementing change. If nothing else, their suggestions might provide some insight into what the problem really is. There’s also a chance they’ll realize that solving the problem is a bigger hurdle than they originally thought and empathize with your approach. Let employees wear the CEO hat every once in awhile. It can shed new light for both parties.

Want additional insight? Download Easy Ways to Improve Your Company Culture


You hired your employees for a reason. You saw something smart and valuable in them, so why not maximize their insight? Creating a more communicative environment leads to a more positive, productive culture. Get started by engaging with your employees. Create an open, authentic relationship with them and always encourage them to come to you with concerns.

Being a leader means effectively managing people. The Alternative Board’s peer advisory model lets you discuss management challenges with other business owners who have faced the same obstacles as you. If you feel your employees are keeping things from you, there’s a good chance there’s room for improvement in your leadership approach. Contact your local TAB board to begin your journey towards better leadership. Your employees will thank you!

Read our 19 Reasons You Need a Business Owner Advisory Board


Written by The Alternative Board