As a leader, handling critical or difficult conversations may not come naturally to you, nonetheless, you should never shirk away from such conversations. The only thing worse than handling a critical conversation badly is avoiding one.
Avoiding critical conversations can have multiple consequences, which we will be exploring in this lesson.
Take this lesson to learn more and don’t forget to take the accompanying quiz at the end of the lesson.
The Consequences of Avoiding or Handling Critical Conversations Poorly
In our last lesson on Critical Conversation Skills for Leaders, we had seen how the interaction between Arun, a manager, and Vivek, his team member, led to the latter lost his passion for this job and the Arun losing a vital member of his team.
While many leaders are comfortable managing multi-million dollar budgets, the thought of handling a difficult conversation with an employee, especially conversations that could impact the work environment or employee productivity can produce enough anxiety in them to keep such dialogue at bay.
However, here are the
Consequences of Avoiding Critical Conversations or Handling them Poorly
The consequences of avoiding such conversation or handling them poorly are manifold.
In this lesson, we will be covering a few crucial consequences in detail.
The first of these consequences is…
Prolonged or Aggravated Issues
Choosing to avoid critical conversations and hoping that that the situation will get better on its own is hardly the right approach, especially in high-stake situations.
Avoiding such important, yet difficult conversations will only prolong the issue, resulting in upset employees, a hostile work environment, or plummeting productivity.
For instance, how will you handle a situation where an employee believes he is ready for a promotion, but you think that he is not.
More importantly, what will happen if this conversation is not handled well?
Avoiding the conversation may leave the employee feeling confused, demotivated, and even dejected. The longer you delay, the deeper these feelings will get.
Eventually, the intensified negative feelings and the resulting frustration will drive the employee to behave in ways that they would not in normal circumstances. For instance, they may continuously complain, spend time on unimportant or unnecessary work, and behave rashly with team members or clients, making them unpleasant to be around.
All of this will, in some way, affect your work environment, productivity, and business in general.
Remember Vivek, from the previous example?
We looked at the first consequence of poorly executed critical conversations. Now, let’s look at the second one.
Choosing to avoid a critical conversation, or handling it poorly…
Gives the impression that there is no problem and denies the employee a chance to improve
We will understand this point better with the help of this interaction between Naveen, and his manager Ajit.
Ajit (serious): “When are you submitting the management report?”
Naveen (smiling, laid back attitude, shrugging his shoulders): “I’m not sure. Maybe tomorrow… I’m still working on it.”
Ajit (anger evident on his face, raising his voice): “Why the hell isn’t it ready yet? In the last six months, you have faltered on almost all your deadlines; your clients are dissatisfied with you, your teammates are upset with you, and there is a mountain of work pending. Six months now, Naveen.”
Naveen (smiling previously, but loses his smile when he hears what Ajit has to say, sits straight and moves forward): “But Ajit… six months? But.. but you never said anything about this to me before… I assumed I was doing great…”
Ajit (serious, his expression saying he couldn’t believe it): “I thought you were smart enough to understand. Apparently, I was wrong.”
Managers sometimes turn a blind eye to their subordinates’ mistakes or areas of improvement, until there comes a day when they can no longer ignore these and are forced to act.
Most managers take an approach of ignoring critical conversations as they want to avoid conflict and maintain a cordial relationship with team members. After all, who wants to deal will emotional confrontations, or angry, high-strung employees?
But when you avoid having such conversations, employees tend to think that they are performing well and not realise that they are not exactly meeting your expectations.
Ignorance is not really bliss, you see, when it comes to giving your team members critical feedback.
Ignoring or conducting a critical conversation poorly can lead to negative situation aggravating further and confused employees.
In the next lesson will be looking at a few more consequence poorly handled critical conversations.
For now please take the accompanying quiz.