“I’m afraid to have the conversation because I’m afraid of how he is going to react!”
Those are the words of Bob, a manager I was coaching a few years ago. This wasn’t a conversation about firing the employee, but it was a difficult conversation that had been put off for too long already.
As a former manager I must admit that I also struggled, at times, to have tough conversations with people that I managed. Apparently, neither I, nor the manager I was coaching is alone.
In a recent article from the website Quartz At Work, the most recent Gallup survey of the U.S. workforce reveals that 69% of managers found “communicating in general with employees” to be one of the most difficult parts of being in a leadership role.
In addition, 37% of managers stated it was difficult for them to give negative feedback, 20% struggled to share their own vulnerability, and 20% dislike having to share company policies.
Notice in the first paragraph. This manager used the word “afraid” twice. In my coaching practice I have found this to be a not uncommon challenge for managers.
While this next point is not the crux of this blog post, and I don’t have any research right now to back it up, I do believe it to be true. This same fear this manager has, employees have with co-workers and employees have this with clients.
So, what’s the impact on your employees and your customers when you are afraid to communicate well?
First and foremost, I believe you are losing trust. If you are avoiding conversations that can be difficult, you are not being honest. Your relationships with your employees are eroding the longer you withhold needed information.
Secondly, if you don’t provide your employees with needed feedback you are denying them the opportunity to get better and improve in their roles. They can’t get better if you don’t let them know how they can get better.
Next, you are creating a culture of us vs. them. Negative conversations begin in the break room or by the water cooler. Rumors, gossip, and half-truths become the norm. Employees leave because they really hate working for your organization. When they’re gone, you wonder what happened.
The list could go on.
Recognize this, the fear of difficult conversations is selfish. Putting them off is all about protecting your self. Others are paying a price because you are not willing to face your fear. Your organization is paying a price because you are not willing to face your fear.
Leadership requires courage. Courage requires you to face your fear. Courage requires you to move forward into your fear and not run from it or avoid it.
Putting it off needs to stop. It’s hurting you, your employees, your organization and your customers. Stop running.
It’s not easy. I know. Leadership isn’t easy. Leaders do get afraid but they act in spite of their fear.
Is there a conversation you’ve been putting off for a while? What do you need to do courageously this week?
Have a STRONG and COURAGEOUS DAY!