A commenter on my last post rightly pointed out that, in some situations, "confrontation is likely to result in ... someone vulnerable, usually the person offering the critique, however justifiable, getting a knuckle sandwich." Hopefully, things will rarely get that physical but, it's true, negative feedback, however carefully prepared for and framed, isn't always taken positively.
As I replied, I had planned a follow-up post about things going wrong for sometime in the future, but given the comment I thought I'd write it sooner than later.
First up, I failed to clarify that, for the last post and this one, I am writing from a leadership perspective. I am assuming that, as someone in a leadership role, I am giving feedback to a subordinate (excuse the authoritarian term), a colleague or someone senior to me but who respects me in my role.
Show me someone who has never been told they got it wrong, or someone who hasn't had to break the news to someone else, and you'll show me a liar. Let's face it, we've all stuffed up and we've all been pulled up for doing so.
The question is, how was it communicated? I'd say 95% percent of the time, it was by punishing or being punished, shaming or being shamed, losing it or being bawled out.
It doesn't have to be that way. Nor is it useful. It causes ill-will, arguments, bad relationships, violence and worse.
I've said it before, I'm sure, how ironic it is that, in an age of so many means of contacting people, how difficult it is to efficiently communicate. Not only is it difficult to know which medium is best to use to initiate contact in different situations, it's also incredibly difficult to know if the person has received the communication.
Today I had two situations where I was waiting for replies to communication. In one situation I'd left a voicemail yesterday morning and had sent an email last night. A call this morning revealed the person had been unwell yesterday.
In the other situation, an unanswered email I sent on Monday, and had to follow up this morning, turned out to be the result of somebody else not responding to my original email, which had been forwarded on.
Is it just me or are you noticing that everyone is incredibly busy at the moment? Or am I just projecting my own busyness on everyone else?
I hate feeling too busy.
I've been canceling meetings left, right and centre –because, it seems, other people are too busy to attend them – and I still feel too busy.
In the last couple of weeks I've tendered for a couple of diversity training jobs and not got them. On reflection about why, I figure the one for the UN in Moldova ("Where's Moldova?" I hear you ask. So did I. It's here) was cost-related. Probably they found someone closer and that wouldn't be hard.
The other tender was to an NZ Government Ministry. Now, they may have found someone closer (in Wellington), but I doubt that was the reason. Even though they didn't respond to my request, I'm picking I didn't offer what they wanted.
Or, rather what they thought they needed. Here's what I offered:
You may have noticed a prevalence of a certain behaviour pattern emerging in certain conflict situations. Ok, I'll own it — I've noticed this pattern.
It happens in situations of complex conflict, usually where there are three or more parties and at least one party has a responsibility, legal or moral, to resolve it. Often the issue over which the parties are in conflict is complex. There are shades of grey and mitigating circumstances.
The behaviour pattern is this: The party responsible for resolving the issue makes a choice not to support the person who is in the right. Rather, to make their life easier, the responsible party supports the party they believe will be least reasonable (or most threat) – and usually, the latter is in the wrong.
This morning I rang Apple to return a gadget whose power adaptor was malfunctioning. I was a few days past the 14 day no questions asked timeframe, but the guy spoke to his supervisor and they accepted the return.
Yesterday I rang Tyler St Garage and asked if they could cater for a friend I'm having lunch with today who's gluten intolerent and vegan. They said not only would they do their best, but if they couldn't, they shared a kitchen with the nextdoor restaurant so could bring through food from there if need be.
Last week I went to Mercy Radiology to get an x-ray on my back which has been giving me grief. Rather than try to manhandle me onto the table as has happened before, the radiographer listened to me as I told her I'd ask her if I needed help. "Of course," she smiled and shrugged, "what would I know about what you need?"
Sometimes in business, things just mess up. People do stupid things, repeat mistakes and just get it wrong.
I recently had an experience with a business where the service I received was somewhat, but not entirely, inappropriate. Then they got the invoice for the service wrong. Four times.
A recipe for disaster. You'd think I'd never go back, wouldn't you?
I had a huge response on Facebook to the post I wrote last night about my dealings with Housing New Zealand. I appreciate the support from people who have commented and tweeted.
What has been interesting as a by-product are the other stories people have told about Housing NZ - admittedly they are hearsay but they give me cause for concern:
If these constitute the usual tip of the proverbial iceberg, what is going on in Housing NZ? Where is the consistency and communication of rational policy in a Government-run organisation established to ensure the shelter of those impacted by an inaccessible, over-priced, unstable housing market?
We've all had the experience of having to say something to someone we like and respect, but we know they're either not going to like it, or worse, it's going to have a negative impact on them. It could be telling your boss you're quitting a job, giving feedback to your parents or partner about something they've said or done that's upset you, or perhaps even letting a friend know you've heard something negative about them.
Here are some quick tips or making talking about it easier - for them and for you:
Let them know you have something to say to them that's important and you'd like to make a time to talk with them, probably for an hour. If they say, "Tell me now," don't. Politely say you don't have the time straight away and you'd rather make another time. Arrange a private or anonymous - and preferably neutral - place to meet, like a cafe, meeting room or shared lounge area.