Manager’s Tone of Voice

A manager asked me to speak to a couple of his employees to find out what they think about how he communicates. In speaking to these two employees, I uncovered a minor problem which had to do with tone and how the manager comes across occasionally. Here’s what we discovered about how some employees perceive his communication style.

1. His approach to communication is practical: simple and direct. The simple and direct approach to communication is not always friendly.

2. His approach to communicating can seem to be too formal or even rigid from time to time.

3. His choice of words, in combination with his tone, can make people feel as though he might not be pleased with them. Because he is an executive manager, this might make certain individuals uncomfortable from time to time.

4. The manager says “you” and “I” a little louder than usual sometimes, which can make people believe that he is being unnecessarily critical or is displeased for, what seems to be, no apparent reason.

After I reported to the manager what his employees told me, he was both surprised and glad to be aware of something that he had not known about. And what is that? Some employees do not always find communicating with him to be a positive experience.

The manager had never known nor suspected that his communication style was something less than a positive experience for some people at the company. Let’s take a closer look at the problem. Here are  two statements and three questions that the manager’s employees told me they’ve heard the manager use:

1) Maybe I didn’t explain myself correctly.
2) I didn’t hear that.
3) What do you mean?
4) Did you hear me?
5) Have I made myself clear?

How do these questions sound to you? How could they sound? How do they sound if the words “I” and “you” are emphasized? The manager did not know that the way he asked these questions sounded, in a way, negative. To him, they were just questions.


  • This manager recognized that he should change something about how he communicates.
  • The manager is aware that emphasizing certain words affects how people understand what he says.
  • The manager practices how to use tone to communicate better.
  • Communication with the manager is now a better and a more positive experience.

The Manager’s Tone of Voice Follow-up