Tag Archives: Dr. Deb

It’s Time to Take the Politics Out of Criticism in the Workplace

3 Aug

Business people

Today there seems to be a concerted trend toward the inception of a policy of intolerance for not just the use of but the very mention of the word “criticism” in the workplace. Exactly who it is behind this trend or why it is happening remains a mystery. While the roots of the trend might likely be found within the secret motivations of various organizations’ overly sensitive political correctness elite, the top-top management of organizations appear unaware of what’s going on.

Recent findings from a national survey conducted jointly by NMA and Bright Enterprises reported that 58% of managers have no problem with the use of the word.

While the actual word, “criticism,” may impress many as something to be avoided rather than cherished, 80% of NMA managers actually have a very positive view of the importance of using criticism in the workplace. Believe it or not, the majority of respondents overwhelmingly view criticism as a powerful motivator, performance enhancer, builder of trust and respect, and a change agent.

Nevertheless, they do appreciate that, used improperly, criticism can cause major problems in relationships. Why? Because few think about where the definitional dividing line is between the word “criticism” and other seemingly synonymic words like “insult”, “condemnation”, “disparagement”, etc .

Using replacement words like “feedback” or “caring confrontation,” while understandably softer and more “acceptable”, doesn’t carry the suggested threat of consequence that criticism does if no action is taken on the part of the receiver. In fact, besides being unclear about whether any action is necessary, very importantly, receivers may not even be aware of any non-action consequences if no action or the wrong action is taken.

Such factors alone are what distinguishes the uniqueness of the word “criticism” from substitute words or phrases designed to preserve the relationship but in the process camouflage the weight of the message’s meaning.

What is needed is for organizations to identify and reeducate those who think the use of the word” criticism” should be banished from the workplace. Why? Because there is no other word that can adequately substitute the full gravity of its effectiveness. But, maybe even more importantly, such people really do not understand what benefits accrue to the organization when criticism and its proper use are understood by all throughout the organization.

Furthermore, it is the lack of skill in this area that most likely contributes greatly to criticism’s bad reputation. Interestingly, 65% of Managers from the NMA and Bright Enterprises national survey admitted to receiving no training on how to give criticism and another 70% of women and 58% of men admitted to receiving no training on how to be a receptive receiver.  What’s more, of those who reported having received any training, 49% believe it was inadequate.

So is banishing the word really the answer? I think not.

Deb Bright, Ed.D., is founder and president of Bright Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm devoted to enhancing performance. Her roster of clients includes Raytheon, Marriott, Disney, GE, Chase, Morgan Stanley, and other premier organizations. She is also a best-selling author. Her newest book is entitled The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt: How to Use Criticism to Strengthen Relationships, Improve Performance, and Promote Change (AMACOM Books).

Are the People You Work with Truly Your Friends?

6 May

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Are your co-workers genuine friends?  This is a much easier question to raise than it is to answer. Depending on who you ask, you would probably get a different response. Most of us think of a “friend” as someone  we can trust and who we think trusts us.. We might even think a friend might be someone we can depend on to help us when times are tough. While we may categorize friends on a sort of scale that runs from “occasional” to “good” to “best” to “very best”, in all cases they are persons we respect and feel comfortable around and with whom we  share some degree of intimacy.  Very importantly, we expect a friend to be truly happy for our successes and is uplifting and fun to be around.

But when it comes to the workplace, we may want to take a slightly different perspective. Friends that form in the workplace are joined together  because of the mutuality of the work and the workplace itself.  That commonality leads to a lot of conversations.  What is oftentimes overlooked or dangerously underestimated is that underlying a friendship at work is the fact that the workplace is competitive. Because of the competitive nature in the workplace, when push comes to shove if someone needs to or has the opportunity to enhance their position in an organization, workplace friendships may oftentimes take a backseat or, to put it mildly, not be at the forefront of individuals’ priorities.

This ambition factor can manifest itself especially as it regards people of lower ranks in the workplace who are friends of those in upper ranks. As a result, it’s important to think about whether or not to differentiate workplace friends from just friends.

The idea that today we are friends and tomorrow we are forgotten often times depicts workplace friendships.  Think about what happens when  a co-worker leaves. The common bonds that once  held the friendship together wither rapidly or they simply are  no longer there. That’s because mutual interests really never went much farther than workplace matters.   Over time, the relationships that were once vibrant and full of chatter tend to fade away as the parties realize that they have very little in common outside of the workplace. Reflect on your own workplace experience when co-workers retired or found a new position in another company;   how many of your fellow colleges have you stayed in touch with once they have left?

Co-workers do need to embrace those elements that friends share such as respect and trust. These are factors that are very necessary among those who work together. … and they may be even more necessary in a working relationship than they need to be with just friends.. If you are a manager, it’s imperative that you address this issue with your people who work with you and with one another. People don’t have to be friends to get along and work with one another, In fact they don’t even have to like each other! But, they do have to respect and trust one another or the working relationship will never work.

Deb Bright, Ed.D., is founder and president of Bright Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm devoted to enhancing performance. Her roster of clients includes Raytheon, Marriott, Disney, GE, Chase, Morgan Stanley, and other premier organizations. She is also a best-selling author. Her newest book is entitled The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt: How to Use Criticism to Strengthen Relationships, Improve Performance, and Promote Change (AMACOM Books).

Is Dressing for Success an Outdated Concept?

28 Apr

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With what I am observing in organizations today, it appears that employees are increasingly caring less and less about their appearance. To put it a little more bluntly, it seems like “dress down Friday” has become “dress down Monday thru Friday” in many organizations. This trend got me thinking about what would happen if John T Molloy’s top selling book in 1975, Dress for Success, were to hit the bookshelves today? Would it still be the bestseller that it was back in the late 70s? Would organizations actually change any of their dress codes? Most importantly, would the author’s message gain any traction and cause individuals to change the way they dress? Being pessimistic, I don’t think Molloy’s book as written in the 70s would even get considered a “must read” among today’s office workers! But why is this and why the pessimism? And what has changed in the past 20 or so years that made “dress own Friday” “dress down Everyday” in most workplace settings?

Well, for one thing the social notion of personal rights has been extended to how we dress in our workplaces. I have been told, as probably you may have, that dressing according to your own taste is your personal right. Furthermore, I think a kind of revolution erupting out of the 90s against the wearing of ties, suits, dress shirts, skirts and just about anything pressed in the workplace, has created a kind of “anti conformity” or redefined cool when it comes to dress. Ironically, nothing could be more conformist than today’s dress down climate! And, while most organizations seem to be okay with the notion of “casual dress”, few have been successful in defining where to draw the line between just plain ugly and casual.

But consider this, have you ever been overlooked for a promotion or have not been given opportunities to take on challenging and visible assignments within the organization? If you can answer “yes” to these questions, then perhaps it’s time to look into the mirror.

Please don’t think I’m suggesting that dress is essential to being successful. However, try being successful without dressing well! Furthermore, I’m not suggesting that you dust off Molloy’s book either. Rather, what I am suggesting is your choice of how you dress signals an attitude that influences how others think about you. Why else do we dress up for a job interview?

No one has said anything to you about your dress? That’s not surprising.  In today’s politically correct atmosphere, where there is a heightened sensitivity to anything negative, bosses and colleagues are most likely not going to say anything for fear of hurting your feelings or infringing on your sacred “personal rights”. So, rather than take a risk, it’s easier for them to say nothing at all.

One thing is for sure; don’t think that poor dress is going unnoticed. Sounds a little over the top? Well, think about this: if you subscribe to the idea that a cluttered desk equates to a cluttered mind, then what’s the corollary to someone who dresses in a careless and sloppy way?

Deb Bright, Ed.D., is founder and president of Bright Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm devoted to enhancing performance. Her roster of clients includes Raytheon, Marriott, Disney, GE, Chase, Morgan Stanley, and other premier organizations. She is also a best-selling author. Her newest book is entitled The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt: How to Use Criticism to Strengthen Relationships, Improve Performance, and Promote Change (AMACOM Books).

Giving Criticism: Tip #2

9 Oct

Tip: Have the “purpose” of your conversation clearly established upfront

Before you begin to deliver criticism to an individual, determining the purpose for the criticism must be made apparent. Because you are delivering criticism, you want the receiver to change his behavior, because the receiver perceives the intent as positive.  This is a very important step when you are gathering information and fully thinking through the situation.

Let’s take, Sally, for example. She has repeatedly asked Billy, her spouse, to put the toilet seat down with no success.  Sally reasons that perhaps it’s possible that Billy continues to forget or that Billy is being cordial but simply doesn’t want to change.

As Sally continues to ponder over her purpose of bringing up the topic, yet again, she considers the following:

  • She can ignore the situation rather than constantly argue with Billy and cause stress in her relationship.
  • Sally can get creative and tape a picture of something that Billy would not like to look at to remind him to put the toilet seat down!

Sally’s purpose is to encourage Billy to put the toilet seat down, however, after working through the situation, she realizes that something so minor, should not be causing so much stress and tension in their relationship and decided to drop the whole situation.

Why have your purpose clearly in mind upfront?

  • Because your intent needs to be helpful, giving criticism repeatedly without seeing any positive changes causes the giver to reflect on the purpose- otherwise the receiver, as in Sally’s case can be perceived as a nag!

Giving Criticism: Tip #1

3 Oct

Tip:Think before you speak:

It is common for a giver of criticism to not always think through how best to deliver quality criticism so it is effective, and is received as intended.  This is especially the case when both givers and receivers are tired as in the case with Jessica and Todd. For example, let’s look at the following situation:

Jessica and Todd have been married for 3 years and have a 18-month old daughter.  Both Jessica and Todd have full time jobs. One evening when both are tired from a long day at work, Jessica asks Todd to give their daughter a bath while she finishes preparing dinner.  Todd responds, “I’ve worked all day, I’m tired! I really had a bad day”.  Jessica responds, “I have worked all day too. I don’t understand why you can’t help me out around here. You are so inconsiderate and selfish!” 

 

Jessica went from pleading with Todd to letting her emotions take over and criticized him by personally labeling him as “inconsiderate and selfish” which did not do much to make the evening pleasant or to inspire Todd to want to help her out.  

Jessica was upset and angry at Todd and let her emotions overpower what she said. If she would have thought first before blurting out what she may have felt at the moment, she would have handled the situation more effectively.

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