As an employer, manager or supervisor, your employees are expected to approach you with any concerns, issues or questions they may have. While it’s crucial to the success of any company that you maintain these open lines of communication, it’s also important to remember that nobody is perfect. Indeed, there may be a situation or question that you simply don’t have an answer to.

Reducing Uncertainty

For starters, you should always avoid telling an employee that you don’t know an answer to a certain question. While it may be true that you do not know the answer, it’s important to reduce the uncertainty, at least in part, before the employee leaves your office. You should make a rule to never use the three-word phrase “I don’t know.” If you truly don’t know the answer, or if you just need some time to research the issue, let the employee know that you’ll get back to them with an answer as soon as possible.

Providing a Timeline

Always provide the employee with a timeline in the event that you can’t provide an answer to a specific question right away. While this doesn’t have to be a concrete timeline, giving them a rough idea of when to expect an answer can prevent unnecessary headaches and hassles in the future. If you are unable to provide a timeline, let the employee know that you’ll contact them when an answer is found. Again, this helps prevents repeat questions, nagging and general annoyance.

Brainstorming With Others

If necessary, don’t hesitate to initiate a brainstorming session with your supervisors, managers or executives. You could even call on the help of industry peers that are operating outside of your own organization. Not only is this a good way of finding the answer to tough or unordinary questions, it can provide you with strategies of addressing and answering similar questions in the future.

Directing and Delegating Questions Appropriately

When you cannot answer a specific question, you may have no other choice than to direct the employee to the appropriate manager, department or staff member. This form of delegation is quite common in many different industries today. Furthermore, efficient delegation can even help to strengthen communications between your entire workforce.

Establish Clear Goals and Expectations

Some of the most proactive and successful leaders are able to prevent such questions before they are even asked. Apart from letting you save face in front of your staff, this ensures productivity and efficiency on a day-to-day basis.

A common tactic when it comes to avoiding these questions is to establish clear goals and expectations with every member of your team. By pulling each member aside for a face-to-face consultation, you’ll be able to communicate exactly what is expected from them. Moreover, you’ll be able to field their questions in a private and one-on-one format as opposed to a group-oriented setting.

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