Often, we look to the questions that would be asked of employees in order to collect feedback on three specific areas: resistance to change; communication issues; and crisis management. This article is about growth and obtaining feedback from employees as it relates to resistance to change, communication issues and crisis management. Below we examine questions that can help obtain the feedback and hopefully it will help you obtain the feedback you desire and provide you ways to act on it.
Questions to Obtain Feedback
Resistance to change. When considering what questions can be asked of employees on the reasons behind why there is a resistance to change, I believe these questions should also address what would help lessen the resistance to change. Many times, feedback is gathered on why but they never seek feedback on what that person may believe can be done to help change the situation. Assumptions are made that certain things would help, where, it fact, that may not be the case at all in the mind of the employee.
Achua & Lussier (2016) identified seven reasons for resisting change which include: feeling of threat to self-interest; uncertainty; lack of confidence in the success of the change; lack of conviction that the change is needed; not trusting of leadership; feeling that the existing cultural values are threatened; and fear of manipulation.
Based on the reasons behind resistance, the first question should be ‘why do you believe there is a resistance to change’. Based on the feedback provided, this should identify one or many of the seven reasons described by Achua & Lussier (2016). If the employee responds simply with ‘I don’t know’, the question would shift to be more specific such as ‘do you believe is it because of uncertainty or a feeling of being manipulated’. Again, if the answer is no, then the same style of questions would be asked only changing the reasons based on the seven called out by Achua & Lussier (2016). It also opens it up for more discussion relative to what the feedback is. The expectation is that it would fall into one of the seven categories described by Achua & Lussier (2016). This would lead to the next question of ‘do you believe this feeling is felt by more employees’. If the employee were to simply answer with ‘yes’ the question of ‘why’ would follow. Another question that this author would ask is ‘do you believe there are other ways to reach the same goal?’. This would then lead to the question of ‘what do you believe would help lessen the resistance’ and followed up with ‘why do you think these things would help’. Ultimately, it would end with ‘would you be willing to be a part of helping to change the resistance’.
Communication issues. Communication issues have been around ever since the dawn of man. The issues themselves have not changed but evolved due to the venues of communication. When once man could only communicate through signal fires, now there are hundreds of venues to communicate through including written, verbal, media such as television and radio, social media such as Facebook and Twitter, advertisements such as billboards and posters, and a range of other ways. Through time man has come up with ways to make the communication better. As time went on, the information itself also changed, making the communication more difficult at times.
Although many understand the need to communicate to all levels, the question is often what should be communicated. This means the first question this author would ask would be ‘do you believe you are getting the information you need to make you successful’. The expectation is that the answer would be no, since the majority believe we are not receiving enough information. With that assumption, the next question would focus on ‘what information do you believe you are not receiving’ or ‘what other information would you like to see’. If the answer to the first question were ‘yes’, the next question would be ‘do you believe the appropriate information makes it to all levels of employees’. The third question would simply be ‘what type of information do you think would be good to share with everyone’. If the employee touches on areas of confidential information, then the discussion around appropriate times to share information would be had. The next question this author would ask would be centered on ‘how often do you think information should be shared and how’. I have even experienced times where information may only be shared verbally with management, and then it never makes it down to the employees. This can help identify the venues for communication. The final question would be ‘would you like to be a part of helping to resolve our communication issues’.
Crisis Management. Achua & Lussier (2016) state that leaders must be able to communicate quickly during a crisis, and that the communication must be effective. They go on to state the questions that often come out of a crisis are relative to what happened, how did it happen, what is being done to address it, and what has been done to make sure it does not happen again. Also provided are guidelines as venues for effective communication when a crisis occurs. These include being present; be factful and direct; be sure to communicate the plan of action; be sensitive; avoid any conflicting messages; show a plan for future avoidance; no excuses; go above and beyond; do not be self-absorbed with taking credit; be honest.
Based on this, I would not necessarily wait for a crisis to occur but would be proactive and begin asking employees ‘what do you think goes wrong when we have a crisis’. This is a very open-ended question and should provide lots of feedback. This would then be followed with ‘what do you think we can do different to try to avoid any future crisis’. If the employees were to come back with ‘I don’t know’, I would start exploring possible answers such as “do you think being more proactive on identifying risks would help’. Next, I would look at the past, and ask the employees ‘based on previous situations, what are some things you believe we can prepare to have in place’. The fourth question would be based on the same scenario and ask ‘what do you believe we could have done better’. And as with the other two categories, the final question would be ‘would you be willing to be part of a crisis committee to help avoid future crises as well as crisis management’.
The End Goal
The end goal of all of this is that you obtain the feedback and more importantly that you move forward with the feedback. Many organizations seek the feedback, but I have only worked for a couple that actually work towards applying action to the feedback received.
Achua, C. F., & Lussier, R. N. (2016). Leadership Theory, Application and Skill Development (Sixth ed.). Boston: Cengage Learning.
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Author, Speaker, Project / Program / PMO Thought Leader
Over 20 years project management experience with a passion for helping organizations grow their PMO, their project managers, and their teams. My passion has taken me to the pursuit of a Doctor of Education, as I enjoy seeing the proverbial light bulb come on. I am a believer in continuous growth and improvement, and believe that an organizations culture and environment is what drives the growth of PMOs and all areas, and not the other way around.