Newsflash… you’re not being “nice”!

Posted November 9, 2009 in Latest News & Insights

I’ve had one too many meetings over the past couple of weeks where leaders I was chatting with were complaining about the actions of either a direct report or colleague.  When I asked them how the colleague had responded to their feedback, I got a blank stare.  And then, in each case, the conversation went something like this…

Leader: “Well… I haven’t actually spoken to them,” 

Me:  “Why not?”

Leader: “Well, I didn’t want to hurt their feelings.  They’ve been going through a lot and I didn’t want to add to the stress.”

Me: “But didn’t you say this is a pattern that’s been going on for a while?”

Leader: (grudgingly) “Yes… but I feel really badly.  I just don’t think they can actually do the job.  I guess I’m being too NICE.”

Okay… so, here’s the “newsflash”: by trying to protect people and not “hurt” them by giving them performance feedback that would HELP them keep their jobs… you are being the opposite of “nice”.  I would venture to say, your conflict avoidant excuses are setting your direct report (or peer, or supplier… whoever) for an exceptionally cruel awakening.

I often talk to people who are “in transition” who, from their perspective, feel that they were solid performers and were “shocked” when they were the ones who got downsized.

I hear people say to me all the time “no one’s safe” when it comes to corporate restructuring.  Even the super smart “high performers” can find themselves on the chopping block.

Some of this may in fact be true (although, personally, I’d be hard pressed to see a reason to ever let go my top talent).  But here’s the rub. I’ve also had conversations with some of these people’s former bosses and my observation is, many bosses are too “nice” and many of these people who find themselves unemployed were being fed a line of malarkey about how well they were doing.  When the opportunity came along for their boss to show them the door (think tanking economy), they used the opportunity to “upgrade their talent”.

I think one of the deadliest epidemics in today’s workplace isn’t H1N1… it’s lack of feedback.  And, if you want to take control of your leadership career… you’d better make sure you’re getting a regular dose.

And, stop thinking that you’re being “nice” if you’re not giving your direct reports the straight goods on how they’re doing. You’re being mean.  After all, wouldn’t you want to know how you were messing up and be given the opportunity to fix it or, if it wasn’t fixable, move on to a new career without the humiliation of being fired or downsized?  I know what I’d rather have.

If you’re worried that you may be leading without a feedback safety net, why not come and check out the launch of our newest program: The Roundtable for Leaders.  Isn’t it time you stopped waiting for your boss to keep your job safe and started looking after yourself?

Happy leading!

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