The aftermath of the recent rioting on the street of Britain has raised a lot of debate on this question: Would you shop your child to the police? See this article for more info. Some have said they probably would not, depending on the crime, others already have – one mother was publicly commended in court for doing so.
It raises a pretty tough dilemma for the law abiding parent, doesn’t it? Do I demonstrate to my child how serious this issue is, by frog-marching them by the scruff of the neck down to the local police station? Or do I avoid the risk of their future opportunities being reduced by a criminal record, and administer discipline in the home? I’m pleased to say it’s not a decision I’ve been called on to make, but I know it would be a difficult one.
It’s a similar issue to one faced by managers who become aware of wrong doing at work by one of their reports. Does one or have a quiet word with the person concerned… or initiate disciplinary proceedings… or turn a bind eye…? Of course, the circumstances of the wrongdoing, regularity of offense and seriousness of the outcome will all play a part in selecting an appropriate action to take. In most cases (unless it’s a very serious issue amounting, for example, to gross misconduct), a quiet word can be very useful in correcting the person and preventing an escalation. Disciplinary proceedings can often be avoided in this way, to the benefit of everyone.
However, as a manager, where a member of your team has done something unacceptable (be it a performance issue, an error inadvertently made, or unacceptable behavior in front of colleagues or customers) it’s never the right approach to turn a blind eye as if nothing has happened. At best, everyone else in the team will be wondering when the manager will act; at worst, unchecked error can lead to failed customer commitments and directly impact the bottom line.
Unfortunately, too often managers do turn a blind eye. Perhaps it’s out of fear of conflict, or uncertainty about what to do, or the desire for a quiet life, or the hope that if left alone, the problem will resolve itself. In the short term, maybe it will. But in the longer term, it is likely come back with interest added. And rest assured, if an issue does need dealing with, everyone else in the team will be wondering when the manager is going to act…
In the long run, there’s a good chance that the young lad handed to the police by his parents will turn out to be a good, positive contributor to society; he’ll have had a big lesson in life and, given the support of his parents, be better equipped to make better decisions in the future.
Similarly, employees who are challenged to improve performance, correct error or change their behaviour produce all kinds of positive surprises. That’s why I’m so passionate about helping managers and team leaders learn how to challenge unacceptable performance or behaviour, and give difficult feedback when it needs to be given. Everyone benefits in the long run – the person, the manager, the team, the organisation, and of course the customers/service users. It’s just a question of how to do it.
What would happen in your team if you started to build a feedback culture in which you gave positive feedback, and challenged poor performance and unacceptable behaviour, every day?