Effective communication is a key part of being a successful leader. But what do you do when an employee comes to you with a sensitive issue that’s hindering their ability to focus on work?

In a recent Forbes article, Internet Marketing Inc. CMO Brent Gleeson offered three tips for effective listening and communication when dealing with sensitive issues such as feeling underutilized or overworked, conflicts with co-workers, stress or even problems at home:

  • Show empathy and listen intently.

Remember that this person has already put themselves in a vulnerable position just by coming forward. Make sure to be empathetic and really listen. Body language and eye contact go a long way, so lean in and be attentive.

  • When appropriate, ask questions to better understand the issue.

Wait until you have all the data before asking questions. Pay attention and don’t become distracted thinking about what you want to say or ask while the other person is talking. Remember that part of a leader’s job is to gather the best data at hand in order to make decisions and provide direction.

  • Provide guidance.

People look to you for guidance. You can’t just shut them out and tell them to go talk to their manager, especially if they clearly trust your opinion. Reinforce chain of command when appropriate and show compassion when the situation calls for it.

(For the full article, see “3 Steps for Effective Communication and Dealing With Sensitive Issues,” Forbes, Nov. 29, 2016.)