Open Issue Irritation
As you move towards building a more constructive and engaging culture, one area that can
positively impact employee engagement is how well the supervisors and managers identify,
record, implement and close-out employee suggestions, issues, questions and concerns.
Also, if too many issues and concerns drag on and on, it can open the door to union organizing
because the employees feel that the employer no longer cares about their concerns.
Supervisors Need to Document Employee Questions, Concerns and Issues
Front line leaders are often first to receive a question, concern, suggestion or complaint from an
employee. But many supervisors do not use a consistent documentation method. Instead they
either try to remember or they scribble a note down on a scrap of paper or the daily production
schedule and then lose or throw out the list.
The supervisor should use a notebook or pocket calendar to record employee questions and
issues as they arise. This has a number of side benefits such as providing support for any
We also recommend that the supervisor retain ownership of the issue until it is resolved and the
supervisor should update the employee on the status.
Managers and Support Departments Play a Key Role
Many of the issues raised by employees need to be referred to other departments and functions
such as HR, quality, health and safety or engineering. It can be tempting for the supervisor to
think that once they refer the question or concern, they can cross it off their list. Instead, the
supervisor needs to follow-up and get the answer or update to the employee.
Support departments need to place a high priority on investigating and responding to employee
input in a timely fashion.
It’s okay to say ‘No’
Supervisors and managers can keep issues open longer than necessary because they are afraid
to say ‘no’. In reality, employees are willing to hear no, with an explanation. They would prefer
closure instead of having the issue drag on for too long.
Tracking the Open Issues
One of the frustrations for the leadership team is keeping track of all the issues and problems.
Some use a board located near each department. Others will create a spreadsheet. A visual
indicator like a dry-erase board can help employees see the status of their issues. If management
does a daily walk around, they can see the issues and update the board.
Updating Progress and Celebrating Success
Instead of being overly concerned about the number of items on the Issues List, managers and
supervisors should celebrate the issues that have been closed out and resolved. And this should
be done publicly so the employees get a sense of the progress and achievement.
There will always be new issues added so it is more about the throughput than it is about getting
the list to zero.
Getting better at soliciting and resolving employee issues will go a long way towards creating
trust and more a more constructive and positive work environment. If we can help you build a
more consistent and capable leadership team from top to bottom, please contact us.