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Opinion From HR Folks

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What is the name of your state? IN

I've become a little concerned with the 'disconnect' that's grown with the regular staff over the course of a few years as a General Manager of a facility of approximately 65 people. There are two levels of management below me (Ops Mgr. & Dept. Supervisors). Because of this, I have no real contact with the staff. Occasionally, I'll get people coming in with problems, but only after its come to a head since they follow protocol of going to their direct reports first, then a manager, then me. That's if I'm lucky. Most often, I get hearsay second-hand and by then the problem may not be communicated correctly, or the scope appreciated. So I wanted to try something that I suspect has been tried before, however, I don't know how our HR would feel about it (if they found out). I don't want to approach them at the moment because they tend to be too cautious of this type of thing in my opinion and I don't want them to try to discourage me. So I'm asking you looking for an objective opinion or even better; experience with this. I want to offer the staff (encourage is more like it) a 'Vent Amnesty'. In other words, propose to all a one-on-one meeting with them where they are allowed to vent with a gaurantee of no consequences. Allow them to discuss any issues they have with anything at all, but steering them to more important issues like how their supervisors treat them (fairness, treatment parity, etc.), how they're evaluated, salary, conditions at work, and even their thoughts on me. I would ask them to only make it one-on-one (no groups), and of course be completely voluntary and confidential and I would tell them upfront, I won't solve any of their problems in the meeting. I won't even address them. I'll listen, take notes, then deal with anything I feel needs dealt with in a general sense. Their names would never be brought up except in cases where its unavoidable and I would tell them if that's the case right there. I think this would get good response as I am (I THINK I am) viewed as approachable, mild-mannered, and trustworthy (as far as keeping my word of not getting into trouble for saying anything). I'm particularly interesting on their thoughts on management. Anyway, does anyone have thoughts or experience with such a program? Did you see any problems with this or think of any pitfalls? Thanks for any insight or advice.


I'm a Northern Girl
The problem I see with it is that when you do something like this, the perception among the employees is going to be that you are guaranteeing that something will be done about what they complain about, and if you fail to do so (either because what the are complaining about is something you CAN'T change, or because it's something upper management refuses to change) morale will be worse and what's more, you'll have lost a great deal of credibility. Using a disclaimer at the beginning will only keep them from opening up, and failure to correct what they see as problems will keep them from ever bringing complaints to you again. Unless you have the prior backing of management that you will definitely be able to correct a significant number of the issues that come up, this is a can of worms I'd be very reluctant to open.


Senior Member
Dog, as an HR person I appreciate the concept and your willingness as a senior line manager to find out what the problems are and address them if possible but I don't think this is a good idea. In addition to the problems cbg mentions, you are also going to undermine all your intermediate managers and supervisors.

What exactly is the problem as you see it? Are your mangers not up to the task of effectively managing their people and resolving problems? Have you set out your expectations with them to keep you informed and/or discuss situations with you as they occur or issues come up? Before you by-pass two levels of intermediate management, I suggest you meet with them individually to discuss your concerns and detail your expectations. You should also do information-gathering from them on their issues and any other concerns in the workplace. It also sounds like you need to give serious consideration as to whether the supervisory team you have is up to the task.

If you do have these "vent amnesty" sessions and your employees take advantage of it, I can just about guarantee you'll be overwhelmed with complaints - a few legitimate but many that are petty and irrelevant and I suspect you'll regret launching into this.

AFTER you address whatever issues you have with your management team, then on-going "round table discussions" with five or six associates at a time can be quite effective for two-way communications: for you to keep them informed on business developments that are appropriate to share, and they to ask you questions and express concerns. Keep the focus of these discussions on the business (as opposed to gripes) and thus they will have a positive framework. Once you establish your credibility however, any significant workplace issues are also likely to emerge.


Thank you both for your opinions. I really appreciate it. I honestly don't suspect any of the supervisors of neglecting problems, but I'm more concerned with staffers witholding their concerns from their spervisors. It seems they freely complain about the petty things, and always hold on to the real problems until they are at a boiling point. I usually hear about these things because they talk about it amonst each other and it festers until someone finally makes a vague reference about 'a group being very upset'. It's never the ones that approach me that are actually upset. Then when I attempt to talk to one of the ones that are having the problem, they shutdown on me. I was hoping this would get them to feel more comfortable unloading any pent up problems and 'clear the air' so to speak of ANY problems. However, I do see your point on how the supervisors could perceive this as undercutting them. That certainly wouldn't be my intention, but it does make perfect sense. I will definately work a different angle. Thanks again!!

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