I was recently helping a client prep for a difficult conversation with some team members who (most likely unknowingly) are creating a culture of exclusion in their small office.
My client is one of the most senior in the office, but not their boss, and was concerned about approaching them about some behaviors that frustrate others. She hates confrontation and doesn’t want to be the cause of additional conflict. And she likes her status of being admired (read: liked) in her company.
These team members have become friends outside the office, and that’s great! We all have lifelong friends who were at one time coworkers. But there are myriad examples of how their behaviors and body language are off-putting to others in the office. Even new hires sense this energy and feel unwelcome.
These young professionals don’t realize it, but they’re already leaders. Whether they’re aware or not, they are setting the culture in this small but growing work environment. But, like a lot of new leaders, they’re likely only thinking of themselves and are unaware of the impact they’re making.
As a seasoned leader, if you don’t share this critical feedback, you’re essentially robbing them of the opportunity to be more self aware and emotionally intelligent. And this omission could have lasting negative effects on their careers as well as those of countless others.
As painful as receiving feedback may be, most of the time we can quickly reflect and appreciate that someone took the time to share it. Wouldn’t you rather know than go through your career making the same mistakes over and over?
So what do you do in a situation like this? How do you make giving critical feedback less painful for everyone involved? Here’s what I worked through with my client…
Remember It’s Not About You
It can be easy to worry that you'll be perceived in a certain way if you give critical feedback. This is completely natural, because many people have a strong desire to be liked.
And while giving direct feedback may be uncomfortable for everyone, it ultimately has nothing to do with you. The reaction you could experience is completely a reflection of the other person’s energy, and a natural response for that person.
If you can remember that it's not about you, that you’re not the “bad guy” for delivering the feedback, and that you have an obligation to this person to share it, it can make the whole experience easier for everyone involved.
Ask, Don’t Tell
Launching a conversation with “I have some feedback,” then jumping right to it, can provoke a defensive response on the receiving end. But often when you have critical feedback, the recei