Do you know what restaurants do at their weekly leadership huddle? I didn’t know until I started attending some of my client’s weekly meetings. Each Tuesday I join them in sampling a new recipe or food. One Tuesday at 9:30 in the morning, I also found myself sampling a daiquiri. The next month, a vegetable paté (I didn’t like it and neither did many members of the team) and a pumpkin soup (amazing!).
And then there was the day that we sampled a new slider recipe. The manager, Bob, said loudly, “Of course Saheed won’t have this. He won’t sample meat. He’s too good for us.”
Everyone, including Saheed, laughed.
And then Bob continued. As the team discussed whether the sliders had enough seasoning and flavor, Bob said, “Well, it doesn’t have to be too spicy. The Indians won’t be eating it anyway, will they Saheed?”
Again the group laughed, a nervous laughter, and everyone looked around to see each others’ reactions.
After the meeting, I spoke to Bob. “You know, singling out Saheed based on his dietary choices creates tension among the team, and I wonder how Saheed feels?”
Bob said, “Oh, I am just teasing him.”
I continued, “I am concerned that your intentions are not creating the impact you would like. I found the comments offensive.”
“Well,” Bob retorted, “you need to get a sense of humor and lighten up.”
“Teasing” is often a form of microaggression. Instead of creating inclusion, it magnifies differences.
Now I fully understand why the staff complains to me of trust, openness, and acceptance in this organization. How would you or your organization handle these situations?
Change the subject
Talk to the perpetrators privately:”I’m really uncomfortable when you do that. This is how your behavior affects me.”
Express your expectations: “It’s really important to me that we treat one another with repect and that we only talk about people’s ideas as they relate to work.”
Yesterday, I was meeting with a senior manager – we’ll call him Saresh – and he was telling me about a problem he had with one of his employees, Chris. Saresh told me that Chris hadn’t been sharing information with the team.
Saresh also told me about a number of other small problems dating back months and years…As we talked I realized that there weren’t a few problems, but a lot of issues; and they weren’t small, some were rather big and impactful.
When I asked Saresh how Chris handled it when he gave him feedback, Saresh said that he hadn’t given much feedback. Saresh felt it was always better to give positive feedback, so he never commented on the things that were going wrong. Not surprisingly, the behavior and problems continued.
We talked about how important it was for Saresh to sit down with Chris and address the issues. He agreed to do just that, but I had forgotten to tell Saresh, “Just a few at a time. Don’t overwhelm.”
So, Saresh sat with Chris and he noted a lot of the problems – some dating back as far as two years prior. This, as you can imagine, led to a complete overload of information.
What went wrong?
Think of how a body needs to be nourished. We need healthy foods day in and day out. Our bodies benefit from moderation and consistency.
Feedback is just the same. Many employees are literally starving for feedback. They want the positive feedback, we can think of it as the dessert, and they also want the feedback that will help them grow, perhaps the veggies. Employees benefit from consistent feedback in small doses, just enough to ‘digest’. This is the type of feedback that they can apply to make changes and streamline and improve practices.
An overload of feedback in one sitting is like Thanksgiving dinner at my mother’s house. My body becomes overloaded and sluggish.
Have you even been overloaded or starved for feedback?