Today I continue my extended series on managers using perceptions to manage. Have you ever had a manager who leads feedback with “There’s a perception that. . .”? As in, “There’s a perception that your projects don’t come in on time.” Or “There’s a perception that you don’t know how to manage your budget.”
In previous articles, I’ve listed 12 reasons this behavior should be removed (here, here, here, and here). If you find this entertaining reading that may resonate for both employees and managers alike.
So let’s continue this list, this time focusing on what managing using perceptions reveals about the manager.
13. The manager is exposed to similar tactics, indirect and direct back to the manager
The manager says, “There’s a perception that you don’t deliver.” This encourages the employee to think (in most cases) or say (in fewer cases) in response to the boss a similar kind of feedback:
“OK, there’s a perception that you’re a terrible boss and don’t know what you’re doing.” Or perhaps, “There’s a perception that you don’t know how to give performance feedback.”
By using the “there’s a perception that” line, it essentially trains the employees to think and use back at you the same damaging rhetoric being used on them. In fact, upon training the employee to think perceptions first, this is probably the thing in the employee that will most likely change.
The employees will start creating “perceptions” about the manager, and most likely they won’t be directly to the manager. Instead, they will extend the negative and difficult perceptions around the workplace about the manager.
Here’s where employees can do this:
1. One-one-discussions with the manager’s manager:
“There’s a perception that my manager is having a lot of difficulty managing the team.”
2. On 360-feedback forms:
“There’s a perception that my manager struggles a lot.”
3. To each other:
“There’s a perception that our manager isn’t comfortable giving feedback, no matter what we do or what results we get.
4. During exit interviews:
“There’s a perception that this is the worst-run team in the organization.”
Using the “There’s a perception that. . .” line reveals that you are a manager who wants to receive feedback via the veil of perceptions.
14. It demonstrates that the manager is not committed to the feedback and changing behaviors
When a manager uses the “there’s a perception that” line, it indicates that the manager himself is not sure as to what is true and what is not true. The manager is ultimately non-committal to the actual events, yet still feels comfortable giving “feedback.” This reveals the manager as a “gutless wonder” (thanks, “Strictly Ballroom!” for this term) who wants something to change, but is not committed to that change. As such, this reduces trust with the employee. Without the manager commitment to changing the behavior, this means that the manager will likely undermine either the changed behavior, or the unchanged behavior, creating an overall untrustworthy work relationship.
This is the final part of a three part series on how managers can ask for feedback on how they manage. Managers get spotty feedback on how they manage, and employees are perhaps the best source of feedback, but it can be tricky. In my previous articles, I outlined how the manager can set up the conversation, and how to handle the actual conversation. In today’s article I discuss how to take this feedback conversation to the next level.
Here are the tips!
1. Help the employee provide better feedback
It’s a little “meta” to give feedback on giving feedback, but since employees are not necessarily skilled at it (nor are managers), coaching in this area in private and in a structured conversation isn’t necessarily a bad thing. First, if the feedback is artfully given (behavior-based, not generalizing, no value judgments), then reinforce that this feedback was given well. If the feedback is not artfully given, you need to clarify what you are looking for, and provide examples. For example, if an employee gives you the un-artful feedback that “You are a terrible manager,” ask, “Can you give me examples from your experience that led you to this conclusion?” Then if the employee provides examples, then say, “That’s what I need, specific examples so I can take action.” If you give un-artful feedback on un-artful feedback, i.e., “Your feedback sucks,” then the conversation will not go well.
This is the second part of a three part series on how managers can ask for feedback on how they manage. Managers get spotty feedback on how they manage, and employees are perhaps the best source of feedback, but it can be tricky. In my previous article, I outlined how the manager can set up the conversation, in today’s article I dive deeper into the actual feedback conversation initiated by the employee. Chin up and get ready for the feedback!
1. Don’t actually recriminate
The employee gives you feedback and you don’t agree. This is kind of an obvious point, but if you don’t like what the employee says, or don’t agree with it, you now have to follow your own rules and not react negatively to what the employee has to say. Don’t be surprised, either. You asked for it, now you have to take it. Swallow your pride, no matter how much you disagree or didn’t want to hear what you just asked to hear. All of your other interactions and discussions have to be separated from this feedback. The better you can do this, the more you will create trust on your team.
2. Avoid debates
When asking for feedback, that’s what you get, feedback. If you then start to try to convince the employee that your actions are correct, and either debate or react as though the employee is wrong, you’ve just trained the employee to not give you feedback, and perhaps not share anything with you. You asked for the feedback, now take it. You don’t have to do anything differently based on the feedback if you don’t agree with it. You should take it into account, and allow this other opinion improve your decisions and approach.