Managers Need To Learn How To Tell The Hard Truth At Work

Managers have to make sure that people know that they want bad news
Managers have to make sure that people know that they want bad news
Image Credit: Landon Wisely

Just exactly how comfortable are you telling your boss or the people that you work with exactly what you think about them or their ideas? Honesty is very important to helping teams operate correctly, but it sure is hard to find the manager skills needed to do it right. Teams need candor from their employees, but managers must take real steps to make clear they’re open to bad news and contrary opinions. Getting everyone comfortable in doing this can be a real challenge for managers.

The Importance Of Honesty At Work

One of the biggest challenges that managers face at work is finding ways to solve the problems that keep popping up. Depending on how your company is structured, for example with a flattened organizational structure, this can be an even bigger problem that needs to be solved with little or no manager training. As we all race against the clock to complete our work, problems can slow us down. The members of your team may get along well with other people on the team; however, they hesitate to criticize them for fear of creating conflict, hurting others feelings or simply being seen as a jerk.

Managers need to realize that airing disagreements face-to-face prods team members to take a look at their assumptions and make better decisions. As a manager your goal is to help the people on your team remember that they are on the same team and they are trying to strengthen each other’s argument—not win the argument. Another way to use honesty at work is by asking permission before offering feedback. This can be done by saying something like “I have a couple of thoughts I’d like to share with you. Is now a good time?” Managers who want honest feedback from their team members often have to ask for it, welcome it warmly and listen carefully even when they disagree,

Honesty can be a powerful tool in helping managers to provide the members of their team with real feedback. However, you need to be careful to make sure that you don’t turn criticism into a personal attack. A good way of going about honestly sharing feedback with a team member would be to use the “situation, behavior, impact” formula. This formula allows you to describe the situation where the problem behavior occurred, talk about the person’s specific actions and the impact that their actions may have had on others. Keep in mind that as a team member’s manager, you need to make sure that you know the person well enough to anticipate his or her response. Who can handle all of this honesty?

How To Delivering Criticism Using Honesty

As a manager, you need to understand how best to use honesty when interacting with members of your team. What you are not going to want to do is to be rude, obnoxious or aggressive. This will cause your team members to shut down and they won’t listen to you. Likewise you don’t want to belittle, embarrass or scare people. The purpose of using honesty is to connect with your team member and doing any of these things will prevent that from happening. You don’t want to criticize team members in public. Using honesty to communicate with your team members is often something that is best done in private.

Before you are going to be able to use honesty to communicate with a member of your team, you are going to have to build a trusting relationship first. As a manager you need to understand that you are using criticism as a tool for improvement. These types of discussions can be very hard to have because the person that you are talking with will feel threatened by what you are telling them. This is why you need to make sure that you find fault with the team member’s behavior rather than with the person. The most important part of these types of discussions is that the person that you are talking with understands the point that you are trying to make. In order to make sure that this happens, take the time to explain the impact of their actions in specific terms.

As managers, we all respond to the actions of the members of our team differently. Some actions can really irritate us and when this happen we need to remember to not shout at the person. That is not going to help anything. A big problem that I have when having these types of conversations is to not repeat yourself. This will come across as badgering. Honestly communicating with team members is something that is best done face-to-face. What you don’t want to do is to send any criticism via text message, IM or email.

What All Of This Means For You

Honesty is a powerful tool that every manager has at their disposal. However, it can be difficult to use correctly. You need to find ways to become comfortable speaking honestly to your management and to the members of your team. Your team needs to know that you are open to two-way honest communication with them. Done correctly this can be a form of team building.

The reason that honesty is so important in the workplace is that it can be a powerful tool for dealing with issues that arise. However, the members of your team need to be comfortable talking honestly with each other and not fear upsetting other team members. When disagreements can be communicated in the open, then it will become easier to see what assumptions are being made and ultimately to find solutions. Honesty can often come across as being a form of a personal attack. In order to prevent this, managers need to use the “situation, behavior, impact” formula. When being honest with our team members we don’t want to come across as being rude. Instead we want to build a trusting relationship first so that they will be open to what we have to tell them. Keep your voice down and make sure that your message gets across.

In the end, it takes finesse to tell your boss and colleagues what you really think. Honesty is a key part of this for managers. Honesty is a powerful tool that you can use to clearly communicate how you feel about something to members of your team. However, honesty can come across as being harsh and insulting if you are not careful. When you are being honest with the members of your team, you need to choose your words carefully and make sure that they understand that you are being honest with them in order to help them to improve.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: What should you do if you are being honest with a team member and they are not taking your information well?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As managers, the one thing that we’d all like to be able to do is to use our manager skills to always make the right decision. Just imagine: you’d never again have to worry about being wrong! The problem is that none of us has gotten the required manager training or figured out how to make this happen. Since we’re not there yet, I’m pretty sure that most of us would just be happy if we could find a way to be right more often than not. It turns out that there is a way to make this simpler request happen: start listening to your gut more.