How to Get Employees to Listen to Your Advice

April 29, 2020 | 856 views

How to Get Employees to Listen to Your Advice
How to Get Employees to Listen to Your Advice

Sometimes, it is hard to swallow the advice we are given. We tend to take advice from some and not others. We reject ideas one day that seem perfectly reasonable the next. And yet, when we manage people, we wonder why our employees don’t listen to our all-important suggestions. As a manager, this compounds our goals of coaching employees; beyond teaching a skill, we also look to counsel them on ways to improve their processes and how to work as a team.

But, as we all know, giving advice often doesn’t work. Why? That depends on the situation. A Harvard study narrowed down the reasons that people don’t listen. Overall, the study identified our own self-perception of being in control. We all tend to think of ourselves as powerful in our decision making, so if we get advice from someone, it is not always well received because we consider ourselves quite capable of making our own decisions, thank you very much.

Employees are no different than you are about taking advice, so consider what you yourself would prefer to hear before you readily accepted someone’s advice:

  1. Ask if they want your opinion. Unsolicited advice is easy to disregard. A person who doesn’t think they need help (or, worse, doesn’t think they have a problem at all) will not take well to suggestions about how to improve themselves. In the workplace, your job as a supervisor is to make the suggestion, but work up to it slowly. It may take a couple of failures before you can expect an employee to say yes to your advice.
  2. Know your stuff. Advice is more readily accepted from an expert in the field. If you are an HR manager giving interpersonal advice, it might be well-received. But if you are giving advice about driving, you are not considered an expert to them. The same driving advice might be taken without hesitation from a professional driver, however. The willingness to take expert advice is about the perception of the receiver. Likewise, if you are the company electrician, but the electricity often fails, you will not be seen as an expert—even in your own field. As a manager, we can expect some respect, but it will truly come when we excel at what we do and our employees see us as worthy of providing expertise.
  3. Choose the time to give advice. Emotions play a role in how advice is received. Let’s say a problem customer has been rude to an employee and the employee expressed anger to the customer. Even if the employee is rightfully offended, you need to address better ways for the employee to handle that situation. However, any suggestion will be better received after the emotion of the moment is passed. When we are upset, we believe our position to be correct and yet, when we calm down, we are all more able to accept our role in a problem and to hear what others have to say.

Giving advice is easy. We give advice whether we asked for it, are qualified for it, or do it at the appropriate time. But to get employees to listen to it requires earned respect, timing, and starting with a simple question to test the receiver’s readiness to hear what you have to say.

Author Profile Jon Forknell is the Vice President and General Manager of Atlas Business Solutions, Inc., a software marketing company specializing in employee scheduling software, including ScheduleBase employee scheduling software, and other business software solutions. In the past, Jon has been recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration as a SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Atlas Business Solutions was named as one of Software Magazine’s Top 500 Software Companies in 2004 through 2007, and 2010, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2018.

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