Telling Your Co-Worker the Truth

We went to a retirement party this afternoon, where the most delicious finger foods were served–spinach artichoke dip, buffalo wings, stuffed potato skins, sliders, and more. We talked with the guest of honor and enjoyed meeting his replacement, but when I got to the car, I just had to look in the mirror. Sure enough, I had spinach stuck in my teeth. Yuck. I wish someone had said something!

Sharing a difficult truth with anyone is hard, but it’s even harder when that person is your boss! It reminds me of a great story about an employee who had a hard time telling her boss he stank, literally. Click here to read it in her own words.

Something this writer said caught my attention: “This is a mistake that I’ve continued to make throughout my career — waiting far too long to deliver bad news to people. I find it hard because it feels like I let people down when I have to tell them that they aren’t good at their jobs.”

Why do we feel like we’re letting someone down by telling them the truth? In reality, we aren’t doing anyone a favor by giving them a false sense of success. This only sets them up for a later failure.

Recently, Scott, our CEO, had to assist a customer in firing an employee who didn’t demonstrate enough leadership and relational skills. Scott encouraged the employee that there was probably another job out there that would better utilize his skills. I appreciate Scott’s perspective that, when someone isn’t good at their job, it usually means that this particular position just wasn’t a good fit for them. That kind of message feels less like we’re delivering bad news and more like we’re freeing them up to find what really brings them joy. It’s what we strive for, to help people find meaningful work.

So if you’re an employee who’s really struggling in your job, maybe you’ll want to explore a different kind of work. Or perhaps you’re an employer who’s having trouble managing a bad employee. If you hate to tell your worker she’s not doing a good job, perhaps you can reframe your thinking to help her brainstorm and figure out what work she’d really love to do.

Try this Find Your Passion exercise to figure out what work really excites you. If you’re considering a career change, click here for some advice.

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