"........When Change is the Challenge."
Difficult Conversations, #2"
Laurie Weiss, Ph.D.
What words do you say to a valued employee to inform her/him that her work is unsatisfactory?
This conversation with a long time housekeeper happened after too many missed days with inadequate prior notice. This time she had left an apologetic message on my answering machine three days after she had not arrived for a scheduled work day.
- Me, the next time she came: "I'm really upset that you did not come as scheduled and that I had to wait for three days to find out what was going on."
- Her: "Well, I was delayed out of town, and I didn't have your phone number with me."
- Me, sputtering: "You could have gotten my number from information!"
- Her, defensive: "Do you want me to not come anymore?"
- Me, thinking hard that she is a good worker, I depend on her, I don't want to have to replace her, I don't even mind if can't come once in a while: "What I REALLY WANT is for you to keep working for me and let me know IN ADVANCE when you are not going to be here!"
- Her: "Oh."
She continued to work for me for 15 years, and never again failed to let me know in advance when she was going to be absent.
This conversation worked. The unsatisfactory behavior was corrected and the employee stayed. We both could have lost when she apparently felt attacked on a personal level and defensively threatened to leave. Fortunately, I switched to focusing on what I did want when I was threatened with losing her valuable services. I took time to think, and tried to soothe her instead of continuing with my own anger. She heard that I valued her, and that she needed to behave differently in one very specific way.
The critical element was my awareness that I was frustrated about her behavior, but that I still valued her as a person. Communicating respect for another person: employee, spouse, child, neighbor or even a perceived enemy, makes a great deal of difference in the outcome of any touchy situation. It mitigates the need for a defensive response.
Separating the doer of a deed from the deed itself can be a real challenge. It is often easier to blame the person who has committed an error than to examine the error itself and what is necessary to correct it.
Thoughtful analysts are examining how we, as a country, must respond to the horrific events of September 11 without making the situation worse. Perhaps challenging ourselves to approach each other person with respect is a contribution we can each make.
Coaching tip: Read the profound and disturbing book, Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic, by James Gilligan, M.D. for an in-depth discussion of the implications of respect.
Copyright 2001, Empowerment Systems. May be
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Jonathan B. Weiss, Ph.D. and Laurie Weiss, Ph.D. have
helped thousands of people make significant changes in their
lives. Working together at Empowerment Systems for 29 of
their 40 years of marriage, they maintain a coaching,
consulting, and psychotherapy practice in Littleton,
· Colorado · 80120
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