In the second Guest Blog on Dialogue for fuchsia blue, Gemma Reucroft (@HR_Gem on Twitter) writes on talking well and not so well in organisations. I was lucky enough to meet Gemma in person at the Manchester L&D connect event in March and I’m looking forward to more conversations with her about employee relations and how we generate varied, fair and strong conversations in the workplace.
Her blogs are insightful, candid and wonderfully readable – a must for anyone who wants honest human insight into organisational life. I’m delighted she offered to guest here. Enjoy:
When Julie tweeted about talking well in organisations, I’ll confess that my first thoughts were actually of examples where the opposite has occurred. Talking badly if you will, or perhaps not talking at all. Every HR professional has I’m sure picked up the pieces of poor conversations, or simply the lack of them.
The first manager that came to mind was actually a bully. The conversations he had with his team were aggressive and inappropriate. When he talked to his managers, most of his conversations started with the sentence ‘tell me why’. He would then lead into picking apart whatever was going on in the business at the time, constantly questioning their decisions and dismissing their answers. There was no dialogue, he simply talked at them. The people he was talking too would shift in their seat. They would sweat and stumble over their words. Grown men would visibly shrink in stature as the conversation progressed. How do I know this? Because the manager in question sat in the middle of an open plan office, and that is where he conducted his 121s. It was my first role in HR, and I didn’t have the confidence or experience do to something about it, but I’ve never forgotten how listening to those conversations made me feel. Is it surprising to know that this manager got results? Results by fear, but results. He is still talked about today in that business.
The other manager that came to mind is one that many HR professionals will recognise. He was the manager that has performance issues with an individual, but just hadn’t dealt with them. He knows what he should have done, he just hadn’t done it. Poor performance had gone unremarked, the employee was blissfully unaware that he wasn’t delivering. Objectives had not been clearly set, and feedback had not been timely, if at all. It got to the point that the manager couldn’t tolerate it any longer, and tried to cram a year’s worth of performance problems into one appraisal meeting. It went wrong and then he arrived at HR looking for a quick solution. I guess we have all seen a variation on this theme. A case of not talking at all. I ended up talking to the employee while trying to facilitate a resolution to the problem. How did he feel? Confused.
Writing this blog has reminded me of one of my favourite quotes from Maya Angelou: ‘people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel’.
What we say is important – words have great power and so do managers. We all know the theory; proper SMART objectives, giving timely feedback, being honest and authentic as a manager, good quality performance appraisals. There is nothing new in this list, but you do need to make sure that line managers have the tools and techniques. What you say and how you say it is important, but it is the feeling that those words leave you with that will resonate longer than what is actually said.
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