Should Manager Talk Directly To Employee?


Should a manager talk to an employee without the presence of their immediate supervisor?




Dear Concerned:

I’m assuming you are most concerned about whether or not a manager should talk directly to an employee about something negative, such as correcting the employee or talking about a problem situation. The answer depends upon the situation.

1. Is there an organizational guideline? Sometimes the policies about when a supervisor must be present or when they are not required to be present (or when they should NOT be present) are part of written procedures.

2. If it involves wrong doing or incorrect work that has just happened and is witnessed by the manager, the employee should be guided, directed or corrected right then, by anyone in authority at any level. If the matter is very serious the need is even greater.

If other employees are aware that a manager has observed problem performance or behavior, or an error of any kind, but don’t see any response by the manager, they may think he or she doesn’t care. So, even just having the manager call the employee to the side to chat about a situation, sends a message to all. The employee should be told that the supervisor will be notified about it. By handling it this way, the supervisor isn’t viewed as the only one who cares.

How this conversation between the manager and the employee is conducted will depend upon the severity of the problem that was observed.

3. If it involves a complaint by the employee about the supervisor, the nature of the complaint will tend to indicate how it will be handled after that. But, in most cases the manager is correct to talk to the employee in private, so as not to hinder open communications.

4. If the manager is asking the employee questions about the work environment or other issues, courtesy and good team work would indicate that the manager should either tell the supervisor ahead of time, or inform the supervisor as soon as possible about the conversation.

As you can see from these examples, there is no one answer to the question. There is a hierarchy in most organizations for responsibility, reporting and responding. But, that hierarchy nearly always has exceptions, based on situations such as described above.

Generally, managers should work with and through supervisors in dealing with employee issues. But, managers can certainly talk to any employee, any time, with or without a supervisor there–and in those discussions many topics are often tossed out and rolled around.

That is why having a friendly, effective management team is so important. When managers and supervisors work together well and work well with all employees, they will be more focused on having an effective group or team than on who is talking to who and when.

When employees know that managers and supervisors keep each other and the employees informed, they can focus more on work and their role than on the issues between higher levels. It works better for everyone.

If you have a specific situation in mind, apply the criteria of what is most effective for getting work done the right way and building effective relationships for now and the future. That helps take ego and status out of it, and places it on good work.

I hope this was helpful for your thought processes about your specific situation.

Best wishes!

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.