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"92% of employees listed HONESTY as the number one thing they wanted most from a manager."
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July 2014



Loss of sleep, strained relationships, loss of productivity, injuries and sick leave, increased customer complaints - these are just a few symptoms of unresolved conflict in the workplace. Unresolved conflict represents the largest reducible cost in many businesses, yet it remains largely ignored.


Seems this would be motivation enough for leaders to identify and resolve workplace issues.  Yet managers and employees alike seem more willing to step out than to step up to the challenge of constructive confrontation. In this article, I will identify these reasons and provide helpful feedback to overcome this common workplace issue we all see more than we should. 


 All the best,  


Confrontation?No Problem! 
The Secret to Straight Talk 


Almost 50% of people have considered changing jobs in order to avoid confronting an issue, and 12% actually left the job to get away from the person or problem, according to a study conducted by the University at North Carolina.

It seems that in the scheme of everything we have to conquer on our formidable to-do lists, delivering some direct, honest feedback would be the least of our management worries.  Not so.  We have found that many leaders would rather procrastinate as long as possible before sitting down with a boss, peer, or employee to deliver just a few minutes of raw feedback - or Straight Talk, as we call it.


Straight Talk is the practice of initiating a dialogue to voice contrasting opinions, needs, ideas, hurts, disagreements and observations, in a constructive and direct manner.  This is sharing instead of stewing, asking rather than assuming, and solving instead of blaming. 




Many people we coach suffer from a lack of self-awareness simply because they are out of touch with how their behavior impacts others and how they are perceived in turn.  No one has dared give them the very feedback they need to hear the most.  Even better, they actually want it too! 


A survey conducted by Lore International Institute of over 500 employees from all types of organizations and industries, found that 92% listed HONESTY as the number one thing they wanted most from a manager. 


Yet working with both novice and seasoned leaders alike, we have found that the number one reason managers tend to put off employee performance appraisals is because of a fear of confrontation.  What does this "fear of confrontation" really mean?  What are we afraid might happen if we get real with others?


The most common obstacles managers cite for why they avoid approaching a troubled employee include:

  • Fear of embarrassing the employee or hurting their feelings
  • Fear of upsetting the status quo
  • Fear of damaging a good relationship or demotivating a good employee
  • Preparation and confrontation requires too much time and energy
  • Unable to predict the employee's reaction
  • Feels intimidated by employee
  • Hard to measure the performance problems

The truth is, strong leaders learn how to balance support and candor, truthfulness with empathy.  Sadly, many leaders deceive themselves and others when they publicly proclaim a commitment to accountability, integrity, and standards of excellence, but instead cheat others out of vital growth opportunities by withholding or "packaging" the truth. 


When we sugarcoat or avoid performance or behavioral issues, we are choosing to place our temporary comfort level above the well being of the other person's present and future professional life.  To confront is to care. Others may choose to use or lose our feedback, but we owe it to them to give it anyway.  


With giving feedback also comes receiving feedback. This concept is a two way street and is crucial for managing your ego and being a role model for your employees on how to successfully use performance feedback. It can be hard to hear honest feedback-especially when the feedback is not what we think or want to believe about ourselves. But the consequences of ignoring that feedback can be even more damaging. 


When receiving feedback from others, it is important to keep in mind the following:

(1) If there are negative consequences to them, they will avoid giving you information you need.

(2) If you get defensive and make it difficult for people to provide feedback, they will decide it's not worth it.

(3) If they give you frequent feedback, but you never make visible changes, they will give up on you.


Ironically, by procrastinating on the difficult choices, by trying not to get anyone mad, and by treating everyone equally regardless of their contributions, you'll simply ensure that the only people you'll wind up angering are the most creative and productive people in the organization.

Spend some time identifying feedback conversations you have been putting off and use the following tips on how to give Straight Talk.

  • Admitting to yourself the conversation may not be comfortable but remembering it is in the person's best interest to have it anyway.
  • Remember it needs to be a 2-way conversation so resist the temptation to do all the talking and avoid doing the band-aid approach. Example: "I am just going to get everything off my chest quickly and get it over with."
  • Always assume the person's best intent. For example, the conversation could start with,"Amy I know you were just trying to get your point across in the staff meeting, but I don't think you got the result you were looking for. I noticed some things that shut people down to your point of view. Can I share with you what I observed about the group dynamics?"
  • The conversation should connect to what the other person cares about. Example: "If you change this behavior, you will become the stronger candidate for the promotion." 
  • It is important if you give the feedback you follow it up with providing recognition and support. By simply saying you noticed them trying to improve will be helpful to them and give the necessary motivation to continue using the feedback provided.


Ask yourself -what do either of you truly gain from your silence?  Would you want others withholding important feedback from you?  Are you prepared to receive Straight Talk in return? 




This is one in a series of leadership articles that can be found at www.penumbra.com.