Q. I've been a manager for 15 years and am puzzled at how badly my employees take negative feedback. I attempt to diplomatically tell them when they are not team players or are rude or inappropriate, but they always end up offended. How do I deliver bad news without getting a bad reaction?
A. You can deliver bad news without a bad reaction if you avoid triggering shame in your employees. People at work feel personally attacked and confused if you use vague labels like "inappropriate." People feel motivated to listen and change when they know exactly what behavior you want.
If your employees believe you think something is basically wrong with who they are, they will become hostile and demoralized. Next time you provide an employee with feedback, make it clear that you both face a problem and tell them what you need to help with the solution. Make it crystal clear with the words you chose that the employee is not "the problem."
For instance, if you need accurate reports on your budget, do not tell the employee that he needs to stop being sloppy or careless. You are just using a negative label that will trigger shame. Instead tell the employee you need his help making sure there are zero math errors on the next budget.
Even well meaning managers get frustrated and use negative labels. Instead of calling employees rude, stubborn or lazy, consider the problem you need solved and the behavior you want. Focus on treating your employee as an ally in resolving the problem and be specific about what you want them to do.
You'll be impressed at what magic specific requests will create. Very few employees get upset at being asked to arrive on time for a meeting. Every employee will be upset if instead you accuse them of being irresponsible, thoughtless and late.
Using the right words at the right time with the right person can seem like wizardry when you see the different results you get. I've seen teams go from being demoralized and conflict-drenched to cooperative, harmonious environments just because everyone stopped using language that triggers shame.
We take a job because we have to pay bills. But each of us hopes to find a workplace where we feel valuable and competent. Despite what you learned as a kid, the magic word isn't just "please"; the magic words include, "Can you help me do this?"
You won't just transform your team if you change your language; you'll encourage other managers to make similar changes. When they see the magic you are working within your department, everyone will want to know your new trick!
Q. I have a coworker who seems to get all the breaks. I know I'm jealous and feel petty about it, but I'd love to see her get fewer goodies. Is there anything wrong with spending time thinking about how to show people she isn't so great?
A. No, there isn't anything wrong with thinking about showing people she isn't so great. However, you'll get further spending time thinking and showing people why you are so great than undermining your coworker.
(Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at http://www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.)
(c) 2013 INTERPERSONAL EDGE DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.
Effective managers deliver bad news with right words
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