I'm a CEO of a mid-sized company (40 employees). I tend to get along with most people and since the company is small, I have conversations every so often with new hires and interns. I don't mind talking to new hires and interns about non-work related stuff (like sports, what they did over the weekend, etc.)
I'm fairly young (my age is closer to university interns than it is to managers and supervisors). The problem is: Sometimes when new hires and interns have a team-related issue, they come straight to me rather than speaking with their manager or their manager's manager first (maybe because they are more comfortable speaking to me about it). I normally tell them to raise the issue with their manager and if the manager feels like it needs to be escalated, then he will escalate it.
Recently, a new hire had what he characterized as racism issues in his team. He felt that he was being treated unfairly because of his race and felt that people did not like him as much because of it. He came straight to me to report the issue (not his manager nor his manager's manager). I told him what I normally say: "That's an issue which definitely needs to be addressed. It's good that you brought it up. I strongly recommend you take it up with your manager first. If your manager does not take action, or if he does not escalate the issue, then let me know, and I will deal with it".
The employee immediately thought that I was ignoring the issue and that I don't see it as a big deal. Since I didn't deal with it and asked him to take it up with his manager, he assumed I didn't care.
In another case, the employee agreed to take it up with his manager. He literally went, told his manager about the issue and then came straight to me (a couple minutes after) and said 'I took it up with the manager. I was wondering if you (me) can do anything about the issue now?' They need to give their managers a chance to deal with something the managers should be dealing with. I'll speak to the employees about non-work related stuff, sure, but they take this as a 'Oh, the CEO will deal with all my issues'.
Situations like these come up quite a bit (when employees come straight to me with an issue). I understand I may be easier to talk to, but managers should know about and should be given the opportunity to deal with issues of members in their team.
How do I prevent people from coming straight to me with issues before even going to their manager? Or their manager's manager?