Cringeworthy Feedback: How to Take it and How to Dish it Out

Whiplash-37013_5Feedback can hurt.

I’ve seen it hundreds, maybe thousands of times in my career.  I’ve received the painful “gift” of feedback from well-intentioned but unduly harsh bosses.  I’ve watched as bright, creative souls were pounded day after day, year after year by tyrant supervisors.  It is appalling.  And if you’re in HR, it’s likely that you’ve given these types of leaders training at some point on how to give more constructive feedback.

You see, for some reason it seems that people either avoid giving feedback and tell other people when someone is doing poorly (in their opinion) or they fly off the handle and use hurtful, unconstructive words that are not meant to motivate, but to belittle and destroy.

Or are they?

I just watched the movie Whiplash and first, let me tell you, no~ EMPLORE you, to watch the movie if you haven’t.  As someone who tries to watch as many Oscar-nominated films before the Academy Awards, this particular film did not make it to a theater near me in time.  If it had, I would have been furious watching Birdman win for Best Picture knowing that the GEM that is Whiplash was overlooked.

Watch the movie.

Ok, back to the story.  As I watched the movie about an over zealous conductor and his harsh training and feedback for one of his studio drummers, I realized that sometimes, there is a reason feedback needs to hurt.  I started wondering if we’re getting too soft in this era of giving every child a trophy for participation and every employee the “warm fuzzy” feeling just because we think if we don’t, they will bash us on Glassdoor or on social media.  It’s like being led by fear.

The truth is that sometimes, people need harsh feedback.  Sometimes, for feedback to take hold and inspire the person to change, we need to make an impression.  It is a fine line to walk between being helpful and being too brutal.  So, what do you do if your boss is a tyrant when it comes to feedback?

  • Take a deep breath and determine the motive.  Some people are just mean for the sake of being mean.   If that’s the case, RUN.  If not, move on to the next step.
  • Is this out of character?  If your boss is usually constructive and sporadically gives harsh feedback that you can somehow determine is well intentioned, it could be for your own good.  Grit your teeth and bear it.  Try to look past the delivery and cling to the underlying message to understand what you can do to improve.
  • What’s the boss’ motive?  Is their boss riding their ass?  Are they taking the blame for something you did?  Try to figure out why the feedback is harsh.  You may need to take a break for the boss to calm down, then ask for a meeting another time to discuss specific ways you could have performed better.

 

Now, what if YOU are known as the tyrant?  

Well, first you need to decide if you just like being that way or if there is a real reason.  If you enjoy verbally torturing people, get used to the fact that you’ll likely always have high turnover because many people will not put up with your crap.  If you are only harsh situationally, you’re probably ok.  Make sure you’re not violating any workplace policies or breaking any laws (of course). As long as you’re not, then try to use harsher feedback only when absolutely necessary to make your point and to get the recipient to make a change.

Have you worked for a boss that gave feedback that was harsh?  Are you that boss?  Tell me about your experience in the comments. 

Corrective Actions and Compassionate Communication

Photo via www.cirris.com/humor

Photo via www.cirris.com/humor

I recently talked with my mom about getting some very rude service from a cashier at a local grocery store.  Apparently, as she began putting her items on the belt, the cashier told her, “Get back! Get back!”.  My mom is very hard of hearing, so this confused her.  By this time, the cashier was saying it in a very loud voice and other customers were looking.

My mom asked what she had done wrong and the cashier began to berrate her saying that the customer who had been before her was running to another part of the store to pick another item.  Keep in mind that when my mom got in line, there were no other customers in sight, no other items on the belt, and she had no idea that another customer would be coming back to get in front of her.

My mom picked up all her items and put them back in the cart, wheeled to another cashier, and finished her transaction.  I told her that if it had been me, I would have left it all there and walked out….no way on earth I’d spend a dime in a store that treated me that way.  There are many other ways that cashier could have communicated with compassion.  Interactions like this don’t happen to us every day, but when they do, what’s the best way to react?

As I thought about it, I decided that I’d like the ability to write someone up for poor behavior when this happens.  According to common law in many states, citizen’s arrest is still legal if undue force is not used.    In fact, if you see a felony being committed, you can make a citizen’s arrest and deliver the offender to the nearest law enforcement official.  While I’m not a lawyer and certainly am not authorizing arresting just anyone on the street, I love the concept that we, as citizens, can hold people accountable.  Why not in a store or workplace?  I want to be able to make a “citizen’s corrective action”.

I want the ability to write people up in their workplace when their work performance is out of line. I would write down specifics of the behavior, give the employee a copy, and turn a copy in to their manager.  Then, the manager could make a determination if the employee acted appropriately or not and take action if necessary.

What do you think?  Would you do this?  Why or why not?

Workplace Observations for 2015: The Year of Employee Aptitude

queens-winning-horseOn this final day of 2014, I’m making some observations about the workplace for the coming year.  Why observations and not predictions?  Recently, I talked with Steve Boese about predictions and trends on an episode of HR Happy Hour.  I am very particular when it comes to using those terms.  I think those words are powerful when backed up by research or data that leads to the prediction and I’ll leave that to my work with my colleagues at Brandon Hall Group.   That research viewed over several years can possibly become a trend.  But without actual data, I don’t give much credence to predictions.

Since I’m thinking about just one year ahead, I prefer to make some observations based purely on what I have seen and heard in 2014.     

I think 2015 will be the year of focus on employee aptitude.

Why aptitude?  Well, by definition, aptitude is about capability, talent and readiness and speed in learning.  I think all that boils down to employees taking control of their own careers and not expecting organizations to do all the work when it comes to keeping them engaged or trained.  How might this play out?  In several ways:

  • Upskilling for retention.  Instead of approaching it as training the company provides (or forces), employees today are taking responsibility to improve their skills in non-traditional ways.  One example is online training through sources such as Kahn Academy, MIT, YouTube, etc.  With greater availability of free or inexpensive courses and information, employees can stack the deck in their favor when it comes to promotions.  The faster companies recognize and reward these types of efforts, the better retention rates will be.  
  • Wearable health and wellness-  The last year or two, wearable technology has seen an uptick.  Why?  There are several likely drivers.  First, with an aging population, you will see more people start to monitor their health in order to live longer with better ability.  The other factor could be the focus on national healthcare and people fearing that employer-provided healthcare could be coming to and end in the near future.  Either way, there is a greater focus on personal health and wellness and it’s easy to get sucked in.  Personally, I joined the FitBit ranks.  Being able to track my health habits on my phone or computer has been an eye-opener.  I think we’ll see this become even more common in 2015.
  • Empowerment-  If you’re looking for your leadership team to have the ability to focus more on strategy in the future, you’ll need to provide a culture of empowerment for the managers and staff.  Employees like having more control over their work and if empowered to make more meaningful decisions, they will become better collaborators and more willing to stay with the company.
  • Availability of usable data-  Organizations have an abundance of data, but it is not typically usable because they have no means to gather it together in an effective and efficient manner.  With HR tech capabilities today, it makes it more easily accessible and able to be combined.  What this can mean for employees is they will be able to see where they stand in relation to other employees, they can make better business decisions and they will have the ability to make those decisions faster than ever before.

Those are my observations.  What do you think?  Do you have other observations of what 2015 will bring?  Be sure to share them in the comments.

 

HCMx Radio- My New Podcast Brings Research to HR Pros

BHG-HCMx-Radio-Logo-1400Today is an exciting day at Brandon Hall Group; it’s launch day for our radio podcast, HCMx Radio. It’s the only podcast in the HCM arena that weaves current market research, HR technology, and industry leaders into each episode.

As the show’s host, my goal is to bring something unique to the HR industry. When I was an HR leader and practitioner, one of the things I always needed was data and understanding how to use it. Now, with this show, that is what we’ll be giving to our listeners.

HCM practitioners such as CHROs, CLOs, CTOs, VPs, directors, and managers will find value in the show’s ability to provide current research data laced with rich perspective that they can use in discussions with their internal organizational leaders. They will also benefit from hearing solution providers describe their product roadmaps and how their solutions can benefit organizations.

Solution providers will gain value by being able to interact with analysts as well as by showcasing solutions that are advancing the HCM market.  Finally, industry influencers will find value in being able to get information quickly that they can turn into compelling content.

New episodes will be shared at least twice a month and will be available on Blogtalkradio as well as www.brandonhall.com and iTunes. In the first episodeStop the Insanity: How to Get Different Results with Your Employee Engagement,

I welcome my colleague, Madeline Laurano, VP and Principal Analyst of Talent Acquisition for Brandon Hall Group, who will discuss her recently completed research on employee engagement and how organizations can leverage the power of their relationships to drive business results.

Other topics in the coming weeks include Recruitment Marketing, Performance Management, and Planning for HR Technology in 2015. I hope you’ll join us and I welcome feedback on each episode as well as what you’d like to hear about in future episodes.

 

HR Happy Hour #194: Small Improvements

Recorded Wednesday October 29, 2014

Hosts: Trish McFarlaneSteve Boese

Guest: Linda Jonas

This week on the HR Happy Hour Show, Steve and I were joined by Linda Jonas, International traveler, and Director of Marketing for Small Improvements, an HR technology provider of tools that provide a simpler, easy to use, and more engaging approach to performance management, workplace feedback, 360-degree reviews, and more.

We talked about Linda’s annual 6-week world tour where she meets with customers and partners, her Small Improvements colleagues, and attends events like the HR Technology Conference and the upcoming HRevolution (of which Small Improvements is a sponsor).

Additionally, Linda shared some insights into emerging and ongoing trends in employee performance management, and the need for both software providers and organizations to keep these processes clear, easy to adopt, and valuable for employees, managers and organizations overall. Everyone seems to hate on Performance Management and one of the reasons is that the process has often been overengineered and over-complicated. Check out Small Improvements to get some insights into how you can change that in your organization, while improving (pardon the pun) both the process and the desired outcomes.

You can listen to the show on the show page here, or using the widget player below. And you can find and subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on iTunes or on your favorite podcast playing app. Just search for ‘HR Happy Hour’.

Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Steve Boese Trish McFarlaneon BlogTalkRadio

 

This was a really fun show – thanks to Linda and to everyone at Small Improvements!

Disrupt HR? Disrupt YOU!

disruptI recently had the opportunity to participate in an event called DisruptHR Cleveland.  This was one of the most amazing experiences I have had in many years.  If was an event pulled together by Frank and Tammy Zupan, Lauren Rudman and Michelle Salis in an effort to bring HR professionals together in Cleveland to think about HR differently.  The format was Ignite-style which means you bring together numerous presenters and give each one 5 minutes to present on his/her topic.  The 5 minutes is made up of 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds.

As someone who speaks publicly, a LOT, my biggest fear was that I would not be able to shut up after 5 minutes.  Luckily for the crowd, I stayed on task and on point.  I invite you to watch my presentation here.  My topic was “Disrupt YOU” and in it I talk about why and how HR pros can disrupt your own career.

DisruptHR Cleveland

Feel free to share and if you’re interested in hosting a DisruptHR event in your city, you can get more information here.

How Valuable are Personality Tests

I’m not a lover of tests.  Whether it was tests in school, medical tests or tests at work, I’m not a fan.  So why is it that when I see quick little tests on Facebook that my friends take, I’m intrigued?  Now there are many that I chuckle at… for example, I saw one this past week that would tell you what your “Old Lady” name should be.  Nah- count me out on that one.  Today was different though.

Someone I trust, fellow writer Lisa Rosendahl, posted a link to a blog by a mutual friend, Jennifer McClure.  Jennifer participated in a personality test and offered a free code for readers to participate.  I tend to feel confident that I know who I am and how I feel, but I was curious, so I participated.

The test was designed to share how others see you based on your responses.  I must admit, I wasn’t surprised by the results.  My assessment basically said the following about me:

  1. I am ambitious, focused and compelling.
  2. I provide influential leadership that leads to results
  3. I have strong opinions and very high standards for myself and others.

There were a few more nuggets, but those were the major ones in the report.  The real value for me came in the part of the assessment that told about what would not be a good work environment for me.  I don’t know that I’ve ever taken one before that addressed that specifically.  Here’s what I learned:

  1. Other people should not put me on a work treadmill and expect me to do well.
  2. If people try to over-manage my agenda, I won’t stay motivated.
  3. I like to drive my success, so I need to be in charge of my own deliverables.

As I think through those things, it really makes sense.  When I think back to jobs that were good but just not the right “fit” for me, it usually was because they were highly-controlled, over managed workplaces.  Not the ideal setting for someone with my personality and skills.

I think having the extra portion of the assessment that shares how the assesse might work best, it sets you up to really evaluate your own work situation.  If you’re like me and find this interesting, I invite you to check out Jennifer McClure’s post and get your free code/ assessment today.  It just might make you approach work differently.

Are You Ready to Disrupt YOU?

There are only a handful of times in life that can be magical, disruptive, important moments. It could be a dramatic moment involving a birth or the loss of a loved one.  It could be one of those moments where someone says the exact thing you needed at the exact moment you needed it, good or bad.  I recently had one of those moments.

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Last week I was honored to deliver the keynote for the SilkRoad Connections conference in Chicago.  (Thank you to the folks at SilkRoad for the opportunity and their hospitality).

As I walked through the empty ballroom early that morning, I felt the twinges of nervousness. As someone who often speaks publicly, I found this shocking and delightfully satisfying. The reason my nerves were at attention was not the event, nor the size of the crowd.  It was the fact that I was sharing material that was personal — my personal story of disruption that led to life changes.  I knew I wanted to talk to attendees about personal disruption.

Disruption often gets a bad rap because it invokes thoughts of people or events that shake things up in a negative way.  I was going to talk about how disruption, whether negative or positive, can have a very positive learning outcome. To do this, I shared my story and I have never felt so vulnerable. It was almost impossible to keep my emotions in check, but I did. I then related it to the personal disruption of the audience. By the time I left the stage an hour later, something very special had occurred.  I had created my own disruption. I will never again approach public speaking in the same way.

Disruption can be a valuable influencer in terms of taking your professional or personal life to the next level.  It inspires us, even forces us, to make changes that lead to new opportunities. This is critical in any business role, especially human resources where we tend to be a little more cautious about risk.  Knowing that we are the gatekeepers of legal and compliance issues for an organization, we spend much of our time reacting to organizational issues. This leaves us scrounging for time to spend on strategic planning and leaves virtually no time to focus on our own skill development.

Until … disruption.

Proactively creating a disruption in your thinking can be just the spark that you need…

- See the rest of this post at: Human Resources Today blog