The new human resources manager in a large retail store made a daily circuit through his store. He always asked employees, “Is there anything I should know about?”

This was no casual question. He asked it with 100 percent sincerity and followed up through proper channels to settle the gripes he heard. Before long, he built an excellent reputation as an ombudsman.

His concern paid off handsomely one day when an employee took him into the stockroom and laid out a complaint about job assignments and working hours that involved more than half the store’s sales associates. They were planning to circulate a petition and take the issue directly to top management, believing that the indifferent store manager–who was about to retire–would ignore it. The HR manager met with the store manager immediately and, with some risk to his own career, described the problem’s scope and severity. It was settled within two days. Personal observation, coupled with sincerity and superior listening skills, carried the day.

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