The comments received on the previous post, “Bad Manager or Flawed Human?” were insightful and thought-provoking. I would like to thank everyone who took the time to express their passion about the subject. There is so much more to say. This post is my own follow up to the conversation in that post about “it won’t do any good to address the behavior of my manager”.
Many of us want to be able to turn to one another in our communities and workplaces with dialog that will further the healthy relationships that help us, our leaders and organizations, to grow. How can this happen if we don`t take some personal responsibility for addressing the behaviors of managers that harm us and ultimately destroy “the greater good”? By choosing to abstain from addressing this behavior, we benignly participate in the the unhappiness, if not the immorality, that we see around us.
Our responsibility transcends our fear
There is no reason for “feedack” conversations to be one-way (manager to employee). Just because we think it won’t change anything, is not the real reason. If we look beyond that excuse, we know the real reason is our fear. The structure and culture of our organizations have perpetuated this. Yet, our personal responsibility to take action must trancend our fear. Our workplaces cannot ever get healthy if we don’t begin the dialog with the offending manager.
I am not suggesting confrontation. I am suggesting dialog. This is a key distinction, because confrontation is grounded in anger. Dialog is grounded in our own passion for making our workplaces and our world a better place.
Why should we feel powerless to speak to our managers about their poor behavior? What is the worst that could happen?
Rejecting an opportunity to have a conversation with our managers about their poor behavior doesn`t change a thing. Having a dialog at least has a chance at catalyzing change.
Where to begin
So when you are tempted to complain or take a raincheck on the chance to initiate a difficult “feedback” conversation with your manager, ask yourself:
- What is my fear?
- What is my role in this situation?
- What is the most productive action I could take?
- Is there risk in taking that action?
- Even if there is risk, is there possibility that my willingness to address the situation will catalyze a change?
- What am I willing to do?
- How will I start?
Ask for permission to have the discussion with your manager (“May I offer you some suggestions?” ” Would you be willing to listen to some feedback?”). By starting the conversation this way, you are not offering unsolicited feedback ?€“ 99.99% will answer “yes”. This is where listening and growth begins because they are now accepting ownership for what you have to express. Then say it with kindness and respect because your manager is not a bad person. They are a flawed human just like you.
Yes, it`s hard. Yes, there is some risk. The potential benefits of your dialog outweigh the risks. This courageous conversation is your responsibility.
Note: I would also encourage you to watch Bret L. Simmon’s excellent video blog series on The Courageous Leader.