Ask Your Employees This One Question Now

Christine Johnson on

I read a piece by columnist Mary Schmich in Sunday’s Chicago Tribune that got me thinking deeper about why employees leave their jobs.

The piece focused on this question: “What’s a hard thing about your job that no one understands?”  Answers included “patience” from a barista and an attorney feeling like his clients want him to be able to wave a “magic wand” to fix their problems.

Asking employees this question alone is fascinating, but what if we look at this question in the terms of employees leaving their jobs.  Could some of these “no one understands” be used to help leaders better understand their employees’ strengths and opportunities as well as the gaps, roadblocks or lack of processes in the organization? I honestly believe the answer is “yes.”

I know it means some leaders who can barely get through a performance review may have to ask their employees questions that might warrant unwanted responses.  And be uncomfortable.  And cause them additional work.  All of these scenarios are good practice for leaders.  Even better if it creates an improved workplace.

In today’s business environment of rapid-fire changes, employees changing jobs or going off-the-grid and becoming “gigsters,” this question could cut through workplace mucky-muck. It could help eliminate multiple meetings and indirect conversations to focus directly on the workplace and the work being done in it.  Answers could also reveal characteristics about customers that help others, like sales and support, perform more optimally.

I challenge leaders as we head into early fall to ask your team this one question and see what you uncover.  It’s the perfect time to ask this for many reasons not the least of which is the start of next year’s strategic planning.

We would love to hear what you learn.  Please share with us directly or comment on social media using the hashtag #onejobquestion.  Let’s test out the power of this question in our workplaces.


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