4 Reasons Your Employees are Ignoring You

Have you ever noticed that some employees have no problem hearing directives, goals, schedule changes and all the rest while others seem to hear nothing at all? It’s frustrating, and it’s dangerous. And while it’s tempting to say “I’m communicating just fine, they simply don’t listen,” one of our studies found that while 93% of leaders thought themselves to be effective communicators, only 11% of employees thought their bosses were effective communicators. Everyone has a preferred communication style, and if some of your people aren’t hearing your messages, it may be a sign that you’re saying the wrong things—to the wrong people—at the wrong time.

Most people fall into one of four basic default communication styles: Intuitive, Functional Analytical and Personal. These are not personality types, but rather deal specifically with how people like to give and get information. And that’s important because we can’t just take the same piece of information and twist it around and call ourselves great communicators. We actually need to present these very different types of communicators with very distinct kinds of information. And that’s where things start to get a bit tricky.

Obviously, in one-on-one communications, there’s only the other person’s preferred communication style to consider. But most group situations require communicating to a combination of two or more of these styles, and there are plenty of times when managers need to adapt to all four styles at once. It’s a big challenge, but it absolutely can be done, and it’s what I’ll be focusing on in our webinar. But here’s a brief overview of the 4 communication styles that starts to explain why those employees may not be ignoring you, they just can’t hear you.

#1: They’re ‘Intuitive’ types who want to get to the bottom line and you’re boring them with too much detail. You’ll recognize Intuitive types as the employees who frequently ask questions like “What’s the bottom line?” and “Where will this get us?”. Intuitives tend to be quicker communicators, which means they give more attention to the people who don’t waste their time. Let intuitive types know right away the real value you are bringing them. Because until you win them over with the big picture, they’re not going to listen to all the other stuff they need to know in order to reach that big picture end result.

#2: They’re ‘Analytical’ types who need stats and data and you’re using vagaries and pitching them on the “warm and fuzzies” they don’t care about. Analytical types prefer things unemotional but linear, and you’ll often hear them questioning: “Where did this information come from?” before they’ll consider next steps. They really just want the facts, which means they’ll give you their full attention if you’re presenting data, specific numbers, and lots of supporting evidence that includes a high level of detail. These are rational, structured folks who want to go deep, and to really dig into things so they can slowly peel back every layer of information.

#3: They’re ‘Functional’ types who require lots of structured, orderly detail and you’re zigzagging all over the place leaving them with too many questions. Functional types generally like communication that’s emotional and linear. They’re the employees who tend to ask questions like: “What do we do first?” and “How long do you want us to do that for?” They want the whole process presented in a logical chain of information that links A, to B, to C right through to Z. If you try to skip around or jump to the enticement of a “wow” finish, like you would with an Intuitive, you risk losing the attention of the functional-type communicator.

#4: They’re ‘Personal’ types who build trust based on emotional connection and you’re being overly rigid, ignoring how your message impacts the people around them. Personal types want you to dive right in with a warm-and-fuzzy interpersonal approach. You’ll hear a lot of feeling words from the personals, like: mad, sad, happy, glad and afraid. And if you dump a bunch of facts on personal-type communicators, they’re going to check out of the communication. But give them lots of personal details like: who else is involved, how getting involved will make them “feel”, who else they will impact by getting involved, etc., and they’ll stay riveted to your words.

So, what type of communication style do you prefer? How about your employees? Which of the above best describes them? Take our Communication Style Assessment, pass it around to your employees to learn what communication style they prefer and attend our webinar to learn more!

Tip: when you’re taking the assessment, don’t think too hard about your answers. Just go with whatever hits you first without overanalyzing it.

Mark Murphy is the New York Times Bestselling author and Founder of Leadership IQ.

Click here to see Mark’s upcoming webinars.

Mark leads one of the world’s largest leadership training and employee engagement studies, and his work has appeared in such publications as the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Forbes, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, U.S. News & World Report and the Washington Post. Mark has also been a featured guest on programs including CBS News Sunday Morning, ABC’s 20/20, Fox Business News and NPR.

Mark’s leadership training and employee engagement surveys have yielded remarkable results for organizations such as Harvard Business School, Aflac, Charles Schwab, Microsoft, IBM, MasterCard, Merck, MD Anderson Cancer Center, FirstEnergy, Volkswagen and Johns Hopkins.

Mark’s best-selling books included Hiring for Attitude, Hundred Percenters, and HARD Goals.

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