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How to Reply to Questions from Employees for Positive Outcomes

Nearly 65% of workers polled in a worldwide study of employee engagement reported that their line manager had a large role in their satisfaction. Having a relationship of trust and open communication was important to engaged employees. Are you able to reply to questions with openness and authenticity? Answering difficult questions with logic and a critical ear encourages employee engagement. Read more to learn how to reply to questions from employees for positive outcomes.

Reply to Questions at the Right Time

Explaining who you are and your business priorities are critical to inspiring employees and moving the organization forward. Leaders understand they build trust when they share the conversation and earn the respect of employees. Open communication means sometimes there are questions and they are welcomed. Not all questions are meant to be hostile or interruptions. Do not allow a question to snag an emotional response or overtake your message. If there are questions you do not want to answer right away, or that you do not want to address at all during a meeting, here are two suggestions:

Answer Immediately in Brief

If a question is timely and on task, be brief and use body language to move the meeting along. Follow up that you will take more questions at the end of the meeting if you have time.

Defer Your Answer With Empathy

Explain you understand and share their concerns but you don’t wish to stray far from your topic. Suggest that people note their questions for later, or arrange to meet with you privately to discuss their concerns in more detail.

Restate in Your Reply

Sometimes questions are filled with emotional hot buttons. “Why does it take 3 forms and 3 manager approvals to schedule vacation? It’s a ridiculous time-waster and micromanagement.” You want to defuse the language in your answer. Remove emotion and reply neutrally. For example: We estimate that the forms should take about 6 minutes to complete. The three managers each maintain production calendars. Now that you bring it up, let’s look at integrating those calendars when you return. Don’t simply refuse to answer. It can be taken as evasive or uncaring.

Disarm with Charm

When the questioner is hostile, your temptation may be to fire back an answer with equal force. Their body language is aggressive and tone angry. Naturally, you want to match them just as much finger-pointing emphasis. Instead, use well-directed praise, humor (not directed at them, of course) and good manners to overcome the emotional tide. Your calm demeanor will tend to encourage the hostile questioner to return to the conversation. If they continue negatively, your unruffled expression will be in contrast to theirs.

Continue the Conversation

Once you’ve made your points, let others take a turn. Be quiet and just listen without comment, criticism, or judgment. This is your chance to reflect a little and turn the talk to the future. Make it a habit to frame expectations positively and wait for agreement. For example, it is much easier to gain respect by telling a teenager to “Wear earphones and turn down the volume so you can hear the phone ring” rather than “Stop playing that noise!” Employee satisfaction with immediate management is a large part of employee engagement. Building trust with open conversations is a critical part of inspiring employees. Our POPin tool lets you check the pulse of your team from anywhere, so you never miss a chance to connect and start a conversation. Try it out today!