How it works in IT

By Chris Gonsalves  |  Posted 2008-04-03 Print this article Print

Aren’t you just dying to tell someone at work they stink when they stink? A new study supports the idea of telling the truth to employees.

In our world, clinging to a misguided sense of self-esteem works like this. You have an IT admin who makes decisions on new technology with a success rate roughly akin to a coin flip. But being the evolved, new-age manager you are, you lie and tell him his instincts are first rate.

When the spam filtering technology he installed starts to gobble legitimate e-mails—infuriating users and crushing corporate productivity—he’ll go to the wall trying to defend his choice. He’ll blame user error, insufficient training, nefarious outside forces… anything to keep from admitting he made a bad call. After all, YOU told him he was a whiz. Is any of this sounding familiar?

“A supervisor could make a problem even worse when he or she tries to restore the confidence of, say, the finance division by reminding everyone that they are skilled analysts at the same time the current allocation strategy is bleeding money and is in need of reassessment,” writes Kellogg’s Adam Galinsky, who should be praised by his boss for understatement.

The stated goal of the study is, according to the researchers, to give organization ways to bolster both employee self-esteem and the company’s bottom line. They claim the challenge is to instill confidence in people so they can change, rather than justify, the course of a failing strategy.

That sounds an awful lot like simply telling the truth. Not pop psycho-babble, not Management by Walking Around, not happy talk in the face of adversity. The unvarnished truth. Do it with kindness. Do it with compassion. Always do it in private.

But for the sake of the organization, do it. Tell people what they need to do, not what they want to hear. As Gen. George S. Patton once said, “I don't measure a man's success by how high he climbs but how high he bounces when he hits bottom.”

Now doesn’t that feel better?

Feel free to tell me I stink. E-mail me with your management techniques at chris.gonsalves@ziffdavisenterprise.com


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