Employees who hear you talking about anyone and anything with no regard to privacy are more likely to do the same. It is not good for business if your employees feel like it’s okay to air all their grievances at any time or place–whether that be a not- too discreet conversation in the crowded lobby of your business or a less than flattering chat about another employee that gets overheard.
Small businesses run on relationships–employees often work in close quarters, have access to a lot of information and feel they have a stake in the business. If you talk to them about their coworkers, they are going to wonder what you say about them when you’re not around. When your employees don’t trust you, they will lose respect for you. And as for the mission you set out to fulfill with your business, they are less likely to put in their best work.
“If employees don’t respect you they also can’t trust you. As a result, you lose access to information. As a business owner, the more you know about what’s going on in your company (and what’s going on with employees) the better.”
If employees don’t respect you they also can’t trust you. As a result, you lose access to information. As a business owner, the more you know about what’s going on in your company (and what’s going on with employees) the better. If you set yourself up as someone who can’t be trusted with sensitive information, you’ll find yourself out of the loop, and surprised when something big happens.
Improving Workplace Conversations
Keep in mind that your employees can usually hear you. Even if you are not discussing employees with their peers, discussing them with co-founders and senior leaders should be done with discretion.
Small businesses often mean small offices, and everyone can hear what you say when there are no walls (or doors!). Even if you are discussing an employee who is not there, other employees who hear you talking are certainly listening, intentionally or not. If you need to have a meeting about an employee, step out of the office, go for a walk, or head to a local coffee shop.
Employees love to work with small businesses because they feel connected to the company. They usually believe, fiercely, in the work they are doing, and genuinely want to make a contribution to the business.
Treating your employees like less than the professionals they are is disrespectful, unprofessional and will lose you the loyalty of your employees, ultimately stunting the positive growth of your business.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Carlye Cunniff is a freelance writer, professional dancer and small business owner based in Seattle, WA. She is the founder and director of The Seattle Irish Dance Company, a professional performing arts and education company. As an artist, she recognizes the sometimes unique challenges creatives face as business owners, part time workers and freelancers and hopes to provide them with guidance that recognizes that unique position. Most importantly, she hopes to inspire others to believe in their dreams. Connect with @carlyewrites on Twitter.