Softly-softly

Wherever I go I encounter people wanting to give tough messages in such a softly-softly way it’s not unusual for the message to never be heard.

Is the UK so softly-softly, it is in danger of becoming a nation of wimps? Wimpy managers and wimpy employees? Perhaps its not a case of we are in danger of ‘becoming’, but in fact we have already ‘become’?

We might laugh when friends and colleagues refer to ‘elf ‘n safety’ putting the kibosh on something the rest of us deem okay. But it’s a serious issue when our wimpy society starts believing the endless press about risk. If you believe all you read in the press you might never wish to step foot outside your home again. You certainly would never get pregnant, drive a car, eat processed food or use a mobile device.

The message we are consistently given as both employees and employers is that all risk must be eradicated. This doesn’t just include practical risks at work such as trip hazards and RSI but also other risks such as the risk of being dismissed or sued for a workplace error, or otherwise bullying or harassment, however nebulous the claim.

But what are the repercussions of this?

  • Issues at work not being dealt with appropriately in an organisation for fear of an individual’s response.
  • The path of least resistance usually being taken – but when did this support business growth and innovation?
  • A loss of respect for leaders who tread so softly around problem employees they lose the respect of all other employees.
  • Increasing reliance on process and procedure rather than common sense and business nous resulting in some stupid and idiotic organisational decisions at times.
  • Staff who are never stretched or pushed to achieve their potential which isn’t great for either staff or their employers.
  • People going through life never actually knowing how they are offending others, what they need to do to raise their game, or what is holding them back from that promotion they keep going for.
  • Bland, insipid organisations staffed by staff and managers whose main aim in life is to keep their heads down and their backs protected.

Not so long ago I came across an employee, just a few weeks into the world of work, who complained that their boss had been disrespectful by shouting at them. On investigation it transpired there had been no shouting at all, but the employee viewed the tough message that had been given as ‘shouting’. He said that the way his manager spoke was like sending him a text in capitals! Clearly there needs to be a new dictionary definition of shouting if this is how younger employees describe tough talk.

But never one to just admit defeat, what can we all do about this?

Well I have just one starting point to suggest to you:

Put time and effort in 2014 to work on developing your managers’ self confidence in tackling the difficult and sensitive stuff at work. They need to know where they stand in law, what they can and can’t say and how to deal with nuisance allegations. They need to know how to toughen up and accept that nuisance allegations will be made and they need to know that they are permitted to act as managers and act with authority when an employee steps out of line. Educate and empower your line managers because softly-softly is seldom the way to achieve business success.

Looking for ideas, guidance or training, get in touch! Got some of your own thoughts and ideas on this? Please do leave a comment.

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