I was speaking with someone recently who had expressed to me that a few employees at their job were so unhappy that they were staging a walkout. They felt underpaid, their voices unheard, and just felt a general lack of appreciation. So this team member went to management to let them know what was about to happen, without mentioning anyone’s name in confidence, just to inform them that there were multiple people who were extremely unhappy. The manager became more concerned about who this was affecting and who was going to walk out instead of why it was affecting so many individuals and why they wanted to leave.
This all goes back to how we receive constructive feedback. The leader, in this case, was not receptive to the message that multiple employees wanted to leave, even when warned by one of her own people. The focus was not on her people and their needs but instead on herself, making sure she looked good and kept what she needed.
Feedback of this capacity can certainly hurt the business, but also the leader who is meant to address it. When we think of Caring Leadership, there are a few things that can be done to help alleviate the emotion when receiving this type of feedback and really, truly hear it clearly. First, take a moment to pause. When the emotion is kept hanging in the air, it’s difficult to see the element of truth that lies in the feedback being provided to you and what you should be taking away from the situation.
After you pause, you’re able to see how you can lean in with a bit more curiosity by asking questions that dig deeper into why this feedback has come to surface and not focusing on the who. This way you can be in a better position to find a solution. An example of a few questions this particular leader could have asked would be:
- Why might this person (or people) feel this way?
- How do you recommend going about changing things?
- Would any of those who spoke to you be willing to speak to me directly?
Leading with curiosity allows you to take a moment to assess the situation first, eliminate the emotional response, and be inquisitive.
In this scenario, it would be best to call a meeting. Not to address the elephant in the room with the whole team involved at one time, but maybe even just meet with a few individuals together or do some one-on-ones. Take on the mindset of wanting to check in with each person to genuinely see how they’re doing. Not just because you’ve received constructive feedback and you want the truth. People will see through that. Here are some things you could ask:
- How is everything going here?
- How do you feel about your role?
- Are you seeing any barriers that prevent you from doing your best work?
Then, get to the bottom of the truth. Meet your people where they’re at. Make an effort to dig deeper and seek to understand them fully. Ask the right questions without accusations and allow them to open up to you. You never know, your true desire to lean in and seek to understand might surface an opportunity to keep your best people. Being open to hearing the hard things can produce more safety and a desire in your people to hunker down and stay with your organization.