11 Employee Questions that Every Manager Must Be Able to Answer

Manager and Workers Talking
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There are basic, fundamental, essential employee questions that every manager must be able to instantly answer. And the following ten answers don’t count:  

  1. “I don’t know.”
  2. “I’ll think about it and get back to you.” (And then don't.)
  3. “What do you think?”
  4. “None of your business.”
  5. “I’m a strategic manager; I don't have time for these details.”
  6. “Check with HR yourself.”
  7. “Ask around with your co-workers and let me know what you find out.”
  1. “Good question!”
  2. “We don’t share that kind of sensitive information around here.”
  3. “Why are you asking?” (In an accusatory tone)

These answers will make you look incompetent, out-of-touch, uncaring, and/or aloof. 

See “12 Ways for Leaders to Build a Solid Foundation of Trust with their Employees.”

Eleven Questions Every Manager Must Be Able to Answer:

If you don’t know the answers to any of the following questions, now would be a good time to do a little research! It pays to be prepared. 

1. What is expected of me?

Knowing and understanding the expectations of any job starts when the job opening is created and posted, which should come from a position or job description. Being able to explain the essential duties and skills required should be part of the interviewing and selection process, and continues with employee onboarding.

Expectations include key result areas, standards, goals, and required knowledge, skills, and abilities (competencies).

As business conditions and requirements changes, roles and responsibilities continuously must evolve. Problems will occur when these employee expectations change in the manager’s mind, but are never communicated to the employee.

Finally, employees should be evaluated on expectations that have already been communicated – there should be no surprises at the annual evaluation.

See “How to Write Real Performance Expectations that Make a Difference.”

2. How is my pay determined?

While managers should not be expected to be compensation experts, they should have a basic understanding of a company's pay philosophy, structure, wage grades, and policies. They should know what a job is worth on the external market and where the employee falls within a wage grade (below midpoint, at, or over). When it comes time to administer merit raises, they should be able to explain to an employee the rationale behind their increase (or lack of).

I realize a lot of organizations are not at all transparent when it comes to compensation, which I believe is a mistake. Employees are going to find out or make up their own answers, so you may as well make sure they have the right information.

3. When am I expected to be here?

Employees need to know their core working hours, paid time off allowances, company holidays, sick day rules, vacation scheduling policy, overtime rules, remote work policy, and any other unwritten rules about work schedules and times off.

4. What are my benefits?

A manager also does not need to be a benefits expert, but they should be able to readily access an employee handbook or online website that provides detailed benefit information for every type of employee.

5. How am I doing?

This question is getting at the need for feedback. Some would say that the millennial generation places an even greater value on feedback. Employees need reassurance that are meeting expectations and corrective feedback when they are not. Feedback should be ongoing, specific, timely, and sincere in order to be effective.

6. How are we doing?

Employees also want to be kept up to date as to the overall health of your unit and company performance. All managers should be able to not only answer questions about their own unit’s performance, they should have enough business acumen to discuss overall company performance. If your company uses a scorecard to monitor performance over time, this is an ideal tool to leverage to keep employees properly informed. 

7. What resources and opportunities are available for my development?

Managers play a critical role in the development of their employees. They can provide feedback, access to mentors, coaches, and other subject matter experts, job assignments, and recommendations (and financial support) for training programs. “Good luck, you’re on your own,” won’t cut it with today’s employees.

See:

10 Really Lame Reasons for Not Developing Your Employees

10 Powerful Ways to Develop Your Employees

8. What do I need to do to become a ______?

In addition to being able to discuss development of the current job, managers should be able to provide guidance and support to help employees move on to the next position they are striving towards.

9. What are your core values?

All leaders should not only be clear on their core values (what’s important to them), but they should also be able to communicate those values to their employees.

10. What’s your vision?

Yes, the questions are now perhaps getting harder to answer. That’s because we are addressing leadership questions now, not just management questions. A leader should have a compelling, inspiring vision for the future that people are wanting to rally around and follow.

See “How to Align Your Team Around a Shared Vision.”

11. What is our culture?

Employees won’t always ask about culture, but they may ask about unwritten rules, or “the way things work around here.” Strong cultures can drive strong business performance, and high performing organizations understand the importance of communicating and reinforcing their culture.

See “A Manager’s Guide to Creating and Maintaining a Professional Work Environment.”

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Updated by Art Petty