I sometimes get mildly irritated, no, maybe seriously aggravated, by the following: mobile phone conversations held at full volume on public transport; 20km/h speed limits outside junior schools still applying at midnight, sometimes with a speed camera to enforce it; public toilets that don’t have toilet paper or people that don’t flush public toilets; clothes shops boasting “up to 70% off”, when 99% of the goods are just 10% off; shop assistants carrying on a conversation with their colleagues while ostensibly serving me; being woken up by a wrong number at three in the morning when I only have to be up at six; vending machines that don’t dispense what I’ve just paid for; having to speak to call centre operators in India for something that’s gone wrong in South Africa; spectators at golf tournaments that shout “get in the hole”, especially after a tee shot; politicians and MP’s; beggars sitting next to cash machines; childcare experts who are childless; computerised hotel key cards that only work upon the first entrance to your room, thereafter intermittently; dog poo in public areas; men with high-pitched voices; people who eat while they are on the phone to me; etc. For me, the list is possibly endless.

My pet hate, however, is the inappropriate use of the mobile phone, especially by managers who seem to show absolute disregard for anyone in their presence. They are seemingly controlled by the LED flicker or irritating ‘ping’ tones when any message “arrives”. Others in the immediate environment are suddenly ignored as the message is seemingly more important than present company. As such, subordinates feel devalued, unheard and disrespected.

Managers need to be mindful when communicating with subordinates. I am not referring to “mindfulness” as espoused in Buddhist contemplation or meditation. I am neither referring to the clinical psychology “mindfulness” therapeutic applications that are used to reduce stress, anxiety or depression in patients. I am simply suggesting the following:

  • Be fully present – put all digital devices in available pockets and focus on the employee (this helps in picking up body language cues and ascertaining intent)
  • Listen intently – be slow to speak and rather use reflective listening techniques to get to the bottom of any presenting issue
  • Connect – use of eye contact, appropriate facial expressions, body posture and proximity all help in assuring the subordinate that this conversation is important to you
  • Show genuine appreciation for the interaction – statements like: “I am  so pleased that you mentioned this” or similar give the employee confidence and the motivation to keep trying to influence the company’s strategy positively
  • Act on what has been mentioned – all people expect feedback or the loop to be closed by the manager when an issue has been raised

The mindful manager will earn respect in the workplace by the employees – being alert and focused during discussions communicates care and value. This does not necessarily mean that a manager has to agree with what is being said, but it does mean that staff walk away feeling understood.

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