So should we worry about how much truth really travels through an office? I think so. And I think one of the ways to facilitate the truth is to know how to listen and ask questions well. I was talking to a friend today who recently interviewed for a top-level position in real estate management (which I know virtually nothing about). Still, I was interested in the dynamics of his meeting and when he felt that he needed more information and that he was possibly being misled, he asked pointed questions. Just as managers aren’t always so skilled at having any kind of truth talk, employees, too, may have trouble moving toward the truth. Just because you’re waiting to hear about your work doesn’t mean you have to take a passive seat. Indeed, asking the right questions can hasten the truth and bring it on in a clean and clear way.
But too often we’re simply overly timid. We’re worried that by raising an issue in a professional way we’re at risk of losing our jobs. But remember, when you focus on the task, the system, the program, whatever it is you keep it less personal and when it’s less personal you’re likely to see some progress. Here are some ground rules to consider as you seek out the truth and offer up the truth: (by the way, as I write this Senator Hillary Clinton has just said in a debate that “we need to level with the American people.” Sound familiar? Here’s the truth:
- Don’t wait to give feedback once a year; I don’t know of any corporate policies that say you can’t tell someone how he or she is doing.
- Don’t wait to get feedback once a year. Even if you’re afraid of what you might hear it’s always better to know than to remain ignorant. And don’t assume that your supervisor knows you want feedback.
- When you’re the one giving feedback please do your homework. If you need to familiarize yourself with an employee’s work or record, then do so with plenty of wiggle room.
- Be committed. If you tell someone you’re willing to sit down and talk (whether you’re giving or getting the feedback), then do it. Don’t cancel. Don’t procrastinate. And don’t forget.
- Wear the other shoes. Imagine how it might feel to be wondering how you’re doing. Think about what it must be like to wait and wait and wait to simply make sure you’re doing a good job. Think about it.
- If you need help giving/hearing the truth, then get it. Be honest with yourself. This is business. Yeah, it feels personal sometimes, but try to move beyond that. Look around, by the way, and study the people who get ahead. Do they take everything personally? Usually not.