How to talk to your subordinates?

How to communicate with subordinates: 70 tips from managers

“My employees don’t know how to do anything”, “I work 16 hours a day and I still don’t have time for anything”, “The indicators are dropping, and the employees don’t care” – familiar words?

If yes, then you have firsthand experience with the problem of how to communicate with your subordinates. The attractive cover – being an executive, handing out assignments, and the reality – building a working department – often don’t match up.

tips for managers

Let’s figure out how you can build communication with your employees so that there is complete mutual understanding and stable growth of the company’s efficiency (and from there, of course, profits). Of course you could read various books for managers and figure out on your own what to do. But we did better – gathered for you advice from professionals, executives of successful companies with extensive experience in this field.

Advises: Tanzilya Garipova

Founder of the International Academy of Business Assistants. Clients: Mail, Sokolov, Mercedes, Sberbank, Tinkoff, Channel 1, TNT, Rostec, Rosneft, Moscow Government, State Duma.

Tip 1. Be a friend of the team

In addition to working together, you should have a joint leisure time. For example, you can get together to play a game, attend concerts, events, go camping. Just remember that this pastime should not contain work, it is exactly a vacation from it as a team.

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Tip 2. Choose “your” people initially

With your employees you should not only have common goals, but also values. This makes it easier for you to set goals for your subordinates and to find an approach to them.

Tip 3. Don’t forget birthdays

Write down the dates of holidays in employees’ families, don’t forget to congratulate them. This allows you to feel attention, recognition and respect. But it is not necessary to act standard and collect money from colleagues in an envelope, for example, you can mount an interesting video, come up with a short sketch, etc.

Tip 4. Participate in the lives of subordinates

Related to the previous one, but dig deeper here. Explain to your employees that they could come to you not only with a question about work, but also with some personal problems.

Tip 5. Build relationships from a “win-win” position

The “win-win” strategy involves mutual benefit. In other words, show the employee that his own actions and yours are to his advantage, and so should be the case in any interaction.

Tip 6. Manage according to Alexander Vysotsky’s system

Be in constant communication with your senior staff, hold meetings and give tasks to departments, and track the results yourself.

“I can fire a person and then call him to discuss some project or hire him again. I don’t care about the past, only the present is important.”

Advises: Vitaly Loshakov

The head of the “Army” project. After 4 years of work, 180 million rubles in revenues, 85 thousand participants in events.

Advice 1: Be patient in the first stages.

Avoid quick decisions. Bring in a new employee gradually, with feedback on each moment. Allow the person to adapt and don’t jump to conclusions about his or her work in the early stages, as mistakes can be caused by a stressful state.

Tip 2. Give freedom of action

To never run after employees, don’t run after them at the start. In some tasks, let employees make their own decisions. People appreciate being trusted and will grow when they understand that they have real responsibility. Determine a budget they can spend on these decisions, but if it suddenly turns out not to be right, do not withdraw this amount, otherwise you will take away all the independence once and for all.

Advice: Elena Tsvetkova

Mentor of the federal project You Are Entrepreneur 2020, Expert-Moderator of Skolkovo School of Management in the program REGION PROFILE.

Advice 1. Be subordinate to one another.

Friendly relations between you and your subordinates should not turn into fraternization. Nobody cancelled the work tasks, and you should not turn a blind eye to transgressions or be afraid to make a remark. Just do it calmly, without negativity.

Tip 2. Invest your own resources

If you want the company to grow, the tasks become more complicated, but performed with high quality, you need the staff to grow professionally. Invest time or money into training everyone. Remember that all spent resources will return, because the company will develop, and profits will increase.

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Tip 3. Become a Mentor

Try to find perspectives for each team member and look out for their interests. If the person is interested in career growth, give them the opportunity to grow, expand their area of responsibility and encourage them accordingly.

Tip 4: Use constructive action

When a co-worker makes a mistake, you don’t have to rush in furiously and straighten things out yourself. Break down the situation together with the subordinate, find out the reasons, draw conclusions and adjust the future work.

Tip 5. Give everyone a job according to their abilities

The main magic is knowing which job is perfect for a specific person. When employees find themselves in their right place, they begin to fulfill themselves. And you are doing well – you see the growth of the company.

Tip 6. Don’t forget about rewards.

Both carrot and stick are important in management. Your system should include not only fines, but also rewards for good work, such as bonuses or time off. This gives great motivation to the employee, because he understands that his efforts are noticed.

“Good management is about showing ordinary people how to make excellent people work.”

Advises: Anastasia Yandiganova

Head of a consulting agency, 10 years of management experience .

Tip 1: Look for approaches

All employees are different. Someone enough to specify a final goal, and it will come to him. With others, you need to discuss the details, answering questions about what to do and how to do it. The main thing is to move him from this stage to the next, when he will be able to make independent decisions.

Tip 2. Delegate responsibilities.

You are the owner, accordingly, you are more experienced. Of course, at first colleagues will not do as perfectly as you, but in time they will learn, and you will be able to do more important things.

Tip 3. Energize.

Whatever the case, remember that you set the atmosphere of the workday. Stay optimistic and enthusiastic, and be energetic and motivated. Employees need to hear and see that you are constantly improving yourself and getting things done. After all, you can’t demand progress from others when you aren’t growing yourself.

Tip 4. Introduce a performance system

Surely you have heard of KPIs – key performance indicators. With the help of this system you can assess the work of a specialist, whether he really works or just wastes his time. In addition, kpi allows the employee to see what he gets his salary for and what he spends his time on.

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Tip 5. Give more time

Sometimes subordinates need more time and space to take initiative. Don’t be afraid to give them that, give them some freedom, and in that comforting environment, subordinates will be more willing to share ideas and complete tasks.

“I will always look for a lazy person to work, because he will find many easy ways to solve the task at hand.”

Advice: Arslan Gabidullin

Entrepreneur, opened 15 coffee bars, was in the top 5 Coffee Like franchisees. He opened more than 70 outlets during a year together with his partner network.

Tip 1: Hire motivated people

If the applicant tells during the interview about big goals, for example, says that someday he will build a competing business, or has not philistine dreams, hire him, or at least consider him as a potential employee among the other candidates.

Tip 2. Allow for mistakes.

A subordinate screws up in front of you – say nothing unless it’s super detrimental to the business. This is how experience comes in. The employee will learn how not to do things, and most importantly – he will be independent, grow as a person and take responsibility.

Tip 3. Give the opportunity to set deadlines

When you give a project, ask the employee, “Here’s the task, when will you do it?” He should decide for himself in what time frame he will complete it, so the employee learns to distribute his energy and calculate the time to complete the tasks.

Tip 4. Make it a habit to come up with a solution to a problem

It’s important for the subordinate to think with his own head how to deal with a particular problem. Ask him what he did to solve it, what ways he looked for. If he didn’t do that, talk about it together. Ask the employee leading questions, so he gradually came to the answers himself.

Tip 5. Create a kind of constant of rules in the company

You must have some taboos, for the violation of which you must fire them without talking. For example, lying or stealing.

Tip 6. Use the principle of “all are equal”.

Regardless of the position, all employees are equal in their rights. For example, if you impose penalties, they should be applied not to someone you don’t like very much, but to everyone “guilty”.

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Tip 7 . Strive to be a “turquoise company.”

“Turquoise company” is a new type of organization that is built on the principle of controlled self-management. In it, every employee can participate in all processes, remains a team player. He strives to do his best for the common goal, which is not just about profit.

Tip 8. Total control is not necessary

“Controller’s injury” is a concept from psychology when a person tries to keep everything under control. If you do not trust the team, constantly involved in all processes, then your employees over time will turn into spineless subordinates. They will run to you with trivial questions, and you will become a hostage of your business.

“You don’t have to hire a lot of people to do a complex job. Quantity never compensates for talent, and two people who don’t know something are no better than the same one.”

Tip: Tatiana Michurina

Head of the SRA network. The firm cooperates with the majority of banks and MFIs in Russia. Experience as a manager starts from 2013, I had 100+ people in my subordination.

Tip 1: Don’t micromanage

The boss is in charge of strategy. Small technical issues and problems should be taken off your shoulders – don’t waste your time or energy.

Tip 2. Introduce controlled delegation

Delegating tasks is necessary, but at first, be sure to monitor their implementation. The first stage will take even more time than before, but it’s temporary.

Tip 3. Control the training of your staff

To prevent turnover, make sure your company is training new hires. If you miss this, you could lose a good employee.

Tip 4. Re-negotiate if you have to.

The market and the situation change. Accordingly, the terms of cooperation or a deal may change. Get together with the employee, explain the reasons and simply restate them together.

Tip 5. Give your opinion

In business ethics, both criticism and suggestions are expected regardless of authority. If employees have suggestions or ideas for your tasks, why not take them up for consideration.

Tip 6. Establish corporate standards.

Establish certain rules, such as where and how to file tasks, maintaining an archive, etc. This way employees can find the information they need faster.

Tip 7. Watch how you phrase your tasks

Set tasks in such a way that they can be understood without exhaustive explanations. If the task is addressed “over the head”, it should be formulated for the recipient immediately, so that the first employee does not have to rewrite it. This will save time.

Tip 8. Offer to “eat a frog in the morning.”

If an employee tells you he’s overwhelmed and “doesn’t have time for anything,” offer him this scheme: have him do the first hour of outgoing work in the morning that brings in the most money (sales, for example), and then work with turnover and reports.

“Don’t let those who work for you live too quietly. Always do the opposite of what they expect from you. Let them worry all the time and look over their shoulder.”

Advice: Oleg Kuznetsov

Head of the company “Vezon”, which specializes in the installation of engineering systems. The company cooperates with Transneft, Gazprom and Rostelecom.

Advice 1. Control all the time

Without control, people start to relax. Set a specific plan for each department, assign days of meetings at which employees will report on the plan for the work done.

Tip 2. Show that you’re just a regular person.

If you made a mistake, admit it to your employees. But at the same time show that you know how to find approaches and correct those mistakes. This once again emphasizes your credibility in the eyes of subordinates.

Tip 3. Consider not only experience

When hiring, pay attention to passion. You can not force anyone to work, but to teach and grow a good specialist – you can.

Tip 4. Stay in touch.

There are times when you are forced to be away. But don’t just trust word of mouth. Now there is every opportunity to control the work from a distance – arrange such meetings online, ask for a photo report.

Tip 5. Seriously choose a senior manager

He should have weight and authority. If a person knows the business, but no one listens to him – no result. It is not necessary to employ a professional at a managerial position, who knows the processes from A to Z. The main thing is that this person knows how to organize.

Tip 6. Learn from employees

In some matters, the employee may indeed be more competent, and there is nothing wrong with that. So don’t hesitate to ask your employees for knowledge, it will only strengthen your relationship.

“It makes no sense to hire savvy people and then tell them what to do. We hire people to tell us what to do.”

Advice: Anton Evteev

Head of the digital studio “Accept”. The organization is engaged in the creation and promotion of sites with payment for results, 16 years on the market.

Advice 1 Limit the time of the meeting

Meetings should not take half a day, you need regulations. Therefore, the employee should make in advance a list of issues and report, the items you should negotiate in advance.

Tip 2. Organize team communication

Apart from work, the employees should communicate on some vital topics, it brings them closer to each other. Therefore, create, for example, a chat in an instant messenger and start a conversation on distracted topics.

Tip 3. Create a quality recruitment funnel.

In addition to words, you need proof. Do a test job for the candidate and then test days after that. On the former, you’ll see the applicant’s skills, and on the latter, how they can apply those skills specifically to the job.

Tip 4. Don’t give 10 chances

If the person has stopped doing business tasks, you should break up with him. Yes, of course, it’s worth giving him a chance, but not “getting into the position” time after time.

Tip 5. Have one-on-one conversations.

If you see that your employee’s performance has declined, the plan is sagging, talk to him privately in a relaxed atmosphere. After all, we’re all human, we can all have problems that affect productivity.

Tip: Marina Polenok

Six years with the Boost Team green communications agency, over 5 years as a team leader .

Tip 1. Work with people’s souls.

Subordinates are not only employees, they are first and foremost people. A good businessman is a good psychologist. Try to understand the experiences of your employees, talk to them about possible difficulties, and strive to find solutions together.

Tip 2. Develop Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to manage your own and others’ emotions to solve problems. But you need to properly build boundaries and not to go overboard with empathy.

Advised by: Roman Shvetsov

Founder of Delegator.24, a business assistant and outsourcing service. About 100 people in the team, all working remotely.

Tip 1: Use the “carrots in front and behind” scheme

The carrot in the front is positive motivation, such as a rewards system for meeting a plan. Carrot in the back – negative motivation – possibility of termination.

Tip 2. Always keep the goal in focus.

Don’t drift into unnecessary discussions. Don’t get bogged down. Constantly remind employees of the main goal and focus them on it, point out which tasks are a priority now and which can be postponed.

short on the main point.

Practitioners and professionals give such advice on how to properly communicate with subordinates. Memorize, assimilate and implement in your team, so that your company becomes more successful and the relationships in the team become stronger. Finally, a few key mistakes in managerial behavior (to remember exactly how NOT to do it):

How to communicate with subordinates: common mistakes and how to solve them

Communication skills are the most important competence for a manager. After all, he devotes most of his working time to communicating with his subordinates. And if he does not know the appropriate techniques, it can lead to conflicts in the team and reduce the effectiveness of management.

We tell you what mistakes managers make and how to avoid them.

Anastasia Vysotskaya

Lack of clarity in communication

This is probably the most common mistake. Its main cause is unclear actions of the manager himself. Imagine that the manager needs to set a task for an employee, but does not have time for long conversations. He briefly talks about the task, bumps into the employee in the corridor, and leaves without making sure everything is clear.

The employee completes the assignment as he or she understands it, and gets annoyed when the supervisor asks how the work is progressing and why it is not yet ready. When the task is completed, things are more deplorable: the superior criticizes the employee harshly and complains that he or she was given such a slob. The subordinate thinks that the boss is picking on him and does not understand what he wants. And this development can be repeated many times.

Such a situation can be avoided if you think through the task, formulate it clearly and voice it to the employee in a calm atmosphere. After this it is necessary to ask him how he understood the task, and to agree on the control of its execution.

How to avoid problems

  • Do not assume that the employee should understand you by heart. Above all, it is your responsibility to introduce him to your vision.
  • Always be clear about what you want to achieve. At the beginning it is best to do this in writing to form a habit.
  • All formulations should be specific to avoid ambiguity, and where possible, quantitative and qualitative criteria. Not just “Make a report,” but “Make a comparative profit report for the first and second quarters of this year compared with the corresponding periods last year, by company department. By 10:00 a.m. on June 1, the finished report should be on my desk.”
  • Always be clear about how you were understood by the employee. Don’t ask the question, “Do you understand?” This is almost always answered affirmatively by everyone. Instead, ask the employee: “Please repeat what you understood, what you need to do, what we agreed on. Next, make sure the employee hasn’t missed any important points. Repeat them if necessary.

Communication imbalance.

This problem is often not taken seriously until they encounter it in practice. After all, if there isn’t enough communication, employees feel left out and begin to attract attention in every way they can. And even more so, employees may start to theorize that they’ve caused your disfavor. The other extreme of imbalance is when a manager communicates with his subordinates too much. At some point, employees begin to get tired of it, get annoyed and have conflicts with the manager.

Imagine two departments in a large company.

In the first department, the manager communicates with the employees only in cases of extreme necessity: he sends tasks to the working chat room and calls his subordinates for a conversation if they have performed them incorrectly. The rest of the time he spends in his office and in meetings with other departments.

The head of the second department, on the contrary, actively communicates with employees. He has a huge number of meetings and meetings every day. And how he likes to supervise or give feedback to everyone on and off. Or he can suddenly walk into the office and start giving instructions. Employees of the department are trying unnecessarily to avoid his eyes and secretly envy their colleagues from the first department.

How to avoid the problem

Try to find a middle ground in communication with each of the employees.

Remember that some of them need more communication, and some need less. To do this, agree on the amount of communication with your employees, especially in terms of supervision and feedback.

Incorrect communication style

Oddly enough, this mistake is often made not only by beginners, but also by experienced managers. It happens that a manager moves to a new place of work and automatically brings with him a familiar style of management and communication.

Once a very competent specialist who was poached from a competing company was appointed head of a company’s sales department. From the very first day on the job he made it clear that he was an advocate of strict directive management. His main communications consisted of issuing commands and orders, publicly reprimanding mistakes, and threatening to fine employees for poor results. Employees accustomed to an easier, more friendly style of communication with management found this change extremely difficult. At one point, there was even a confrontation in the department, when some of the employees openly disobeyed their boss. The only way to resolve the conflict was to involve the director of human resources, but even that did not prevent several employees from leaving.

Another common example is when someone from the team is appointed as the manager, but after that there is no proper change in the style of communication. Employees continue to communicate with their former colleague in a too paternalistic manner, and he has nothing against it. Moreover, he periodically allows himself to be removed from the role of manager out of inexperience or out of the goodness of his heart.

Such a mistake is fraught with great problems with discipline and subordination in the future and extremely high managerial costs for the manager himself. After all, if the manager sets a certain style of communication from the very beginning, it is very difficult to change it later.

How to avoid the problem

Before establishing a certain style of communication with the staff, be sure to analyze

  • what style is already established in the team;
  • How well it fits in with the style adopted at the company level;
  • to what extent it is conducive to effective management.

It is important to understand that completely different styles may be appropriate for different teams. And it may take some time to find the most optimal style for your team.

If you realize that the adopted style of communication is no longer effective and negatively affects the management of employees, it needs to be changed. This may require some effort and cause resistance from the team and even sabotage. In this case, firmly but correctly insist and “sell” the new communication style to the staff by showing its benefits. And do not allow your staff to turn you from a managerial position into a position of an understanding person, or into some other format that is no less beneficial for them.


Soft Skills kit for the manager

Learn more

  • Learn how to manage a team and motivate subordinates.
  • You will be able to negotiate with your subordinates and colleagues
  • Learn how to conduct constructive meetings and optimize their number

Use one approach for everyone

Very often this mistake is made due to a lack of managerial flexibility and a sincere belief that it is the job of the employees, not the manager, to adjust and find an approach. In this case, as a rule, managers get stuck in a habitual management style and apply it automatically in communication with all employees, indiscriminately.

In the early days of one logistics company, the warehouse manager managed a small team of five people. Since the company was just entering the market, it had no way to pay high salaries. Therefore, the warehouse manager had to deal with rather unmotivated and unqualified employees, who also changed frequently. As a result, he developed a mentoring style of management, which included the most detailed instructions and moral support.

Over time, the company grew several times over, and now this boss manages a much larger team. And in addition to unskilled employees, he has a sufficient number of experienced and motivated employees under his direction. He is in the habit of trying to explain everything to them in as much detail as possible several times, which creates some tension in communication. He has been told several times that not everyone needs such instructions, but he doesn’t pay much attention to this, because he doesn’t think it would be necessary. Employees’ motivation goes down.

This error is also fraught with the fact that using the same format of communication does not involve the expansion of the communicative arsenal. Using the same techniques, we certainly get a chance to master them to perfection. However, the amount mastered may at some point be insufficient. And if we do not promptly eliminate it, the effectiveness of interaction with employees decreases.

How to avoid the problem

  • study various theories about personality types, which help to understand people better and determine the peculiarities of interaction with different types of employees;
  • Observe your employees to understand what type each person is;
  • build managerial flexibility and periodically expand their communication arsenal by learning new tools;
  • remember that a manager must effectively manage not only the team as a whole, but also each employee individually.

It is most effective when you know the strengths and weaknesses of each employee, his motivators and level of competence, and build communications and management style with these parameters in mind.

Poor feedback

Feedback is one of the components of the communication process. It is thanks to feedback that two-way communication is possible, when we do not simply send a message to the person we are talking to, but also receive a reaction to it. Unfortunately, in many Russian companies there is no culture of feedback. Some managers do not think it is necessary to provide it, and employees are simply afraid to do so. As a result, communication turns out to be one-sided, and because of this, it loses a lot of its effectiveness.

Participants in one training group shared with me that their supervisor almost never gives them feedback on their work. The only way to get it is to make a significant mistake, which is inevitably followed by a devastating criticism. But if the work is done without mistakes, the supervisor never gives it, apparently, considering it unnecessary. Almost all his subordinates are highly demotivated by such an attitude. Besides, the absence of timely feedback during the task execution makes them spend much more time and effort to improve it or completely redo it.

How to avoid the problem

  • Provide employees with feedback in different formats on a regular basis, and at different stages of supervision. Don’t focus on corrective feedback, take the time and occasion to acknowledge and praise the quality of the employee’s work.
  • Establish a format of feedback that employees can give you, and ask for it periodically . This format should be as comfortable as possible for both parties. You can give feedback on an anonymous basis, such as an annual survey, or you can give it in one-on-one, personal meetings.
  • Don’t just listen to feedback from employees, but analyze it and use it to further improve your communications with them.
  • Develop a culture of giving feedback in your department and company. To do this, give feedback and show its importance and value to the effective performance of both the team as a whole and the individual employee.


There are many more problems in communications than I have listed. But, more importantly, it’s that an effective leader is not one who doesn’t make mistakes. He is the one who recognizes mistakes in time and finds effective ways of solving them time after time. And this is only possible if you constantly improve your managerial competences.

And the more communicative tools you have, the more likely it is that many problems in communication will bypass you. And those that do not bypass you will not stand a chance against you: forewarned is forearmed.

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