If you have good but temperamental people working for you, you know the problem: Your constructive criticism is often taken as a personal attack.
That can lead to workers conjuring up reasons for these “attacks,” such as illegal discrimination. Furthermore, employees who feel that their feathers are being ruffled tend to be less productive.
Here’s how to offer suggestions to keep your workplace running smoothly:
• Talk about the work, not the person. Make even more of an effort than usual to say what’s needed in explicit, objective terms. For example, don’t say, “You can get these orders out faster if you were better organized,” Instead say, “These orders might be easier to do if they were sorted by location.”
• Keep it short. Sticking to the point indicates your confidence in the person’s intelligence and capability—and you don’t sound as though you’re nagging.
• Make positive statements. Focus on what needs to be done rather than on what the person is failing to do. For example, “Let’s create a system for recording these deliveries.”
• Accept the person’s feelings. If he or she acts defensively, acknowledge it. But don’t reinforce it by apologizing or sympathizing. Say something like, “I understand, but remember, this isn’t personal.”
• Make acceptance conditional. If a subordinate continues to resist your suggestions, don’t insist on a complete change immediately. Instead, say something like, “All I’m asking is that you give it a try. Start it and see how it goes. If you still have problems with it, maybe we can come up with another idea.”