By Carol Williams

Communication is the key to every great relationship, right? But we all know that communication between a boss or business owner and his or her employees may sometimes be a bit strained or forced. At times, we’re not going to be fully honest with each other — even when honesty might actually move everyone forward. To that end, here are 8 things your employees might be thinking yet not telling you… but that you’d certainly want to know.

1. I need more breaks and more vacation time.

Do your employees think they need to go, go, go all the time because it’s what they see you doing? Are they letting their vacation time pile up, or do you not even give much? Your workers probably don’t want to tell you they need more breaks or time off because they’re afraid they’ll look lazy — but overwork kills motivation. And it’s certainly not going to be good for your business if your employees burn out and quit.

2. I want to get paid more.

Okay, yes, it’s rare to find an employee who wants to get paid less. But think hard about this elephant in the room. Even if you can’t afford to pay your employees more, this issue is one you may want to address before it causes paranoia in the ranks. Consider being more open about pay structures and company finances and/or standardizing compensation. And please make sure you’re not discriminating against any groups when you decide on salary.

3. I hate meetings.

If you’re running the show, you may look at meetings as a great opportunity to rally the troops and get crucial new information out there. However, your employees may not see them as the best use of their time, especially when they’ve got six deadlines. Be honest: is there any way you can respect your employees’ time a bit more?

4. I’m bored.

What’s worse than being overworked and over-challenged? Being underworked and bored to tears. However, most bored employees don’t want to admit to this for fear of seeming ungrateful or unnecessary. If someone seems a bit burned-out, it may be time to ask if they’re interested in a different responsibility, or even school or courses on the company dime.

5. I’m not as invested in this as you are.

This company is your dream, right? The thing you always wanted to do? The best product in the world? It’s OK to pursue your dream, but keep in mind that your employees probably don’t feel the same way about it. They most likely have their own dreams and plans. Or they may not even be “big dream” types and instead prefer to do a good job at work and go home to other priorities.

6. I know how to do it better, but I’m afraid to tell you.

You don’t do that one thing with the server or the register or the database 50 times a day like Sarah or Mike does, do you? Nope. So sometimes, your employee really does know how to do it better than you do. But it can be awkward and scary to instruct the boss, so most of the time employees just don’t. It would therefore be a good idea to ask for their help, as it will not only save your time but also drastically boost their motivation.

7. I want you to fire that one guy.

You know that employee who you kind of think might be a problem? The one all the women seem to stay away from, or nobody wants to be on a team with, or the one who always calls in sick when something major is due? Investigate your hunches in this area. Putting up with a problem coworker for months is a morale-killer for the rest of the team. However, in most instances do not expect your employees to tell you that they feel uncomfortable working with one of their colleagues. Keep your eyes open and if you think there really is no other way – act immediately.

8. I hate the office party.

Do you constantly throw office parties or ask everyone for drinks? Some people really do like this, but for others it’s agony. They just want to get home to their families, relax without other employees and the boss around, or just feel like this kind of social scene simply isn’t for them. However, they don’t feel like they can say no, especially to their boss. Make it clear that events like these are optional (unless they really aren’t — in which case, make them rare).

While your workers may not want to say any of this to you, a good boss or small business owner will watch, learn, and anticipate. Try to put yourself in your employees’ shoes; after all, you probably were in their shoes yourself once, right? Of course, communicating openly is always a good strategy, too, if done correctly. When you’re more in touch with how your employees feel, you’re likely to have a happier, more effective workplace.