Criticize Actions Not People

  • samerchidiacbronzeAuthor: samerchidiac Publish date: Monday، 30 May 2022
Criticize Actions Not People

A long, long time ago, I have read the essence of this Monday Tip in one of the books where it was described as one of the most important parts of management. And in particular, people management.

Let’s start with a cliché statement: “If I could get $1 every time I heard about somebody not liking to work with another person, or having pain from their own business relationship, I would have been a millionaire by now.”

There’s a big confusion between liking somebody and liking to work with somebody, or simply being efficient in working with someone; I have had the opportunity to learn to see things from multiple angles and perspectives as, during my career, I have moved from working as an individual contributor to becoming a manager and managing a group of employees, And then to becoming a manager of managers on a director level, where you need to manage those who manage others and then all the way to an executive-level where you oversee the organization as a whole.

Traditionally, Dealing with people has always been a challenge for most managers; When I had that issue at some point in time, and later on when I spoke about it in conferences and workshops, I used to reflect and give the same example:

Every time I used to give the example of kids and the learning you can get from handling a small conflict with a kid, So, if you have a problem with your child, let’s say they did something wrong, they broke something. When you come to them and you tell them.

Did you break this? Why did you break it?

More likely, the kid is going to (depending on how you raised them but in most of the cases) tell you all types of stories about how it was not his/her fault, and mostly based on psychology, it would be because he felt under attack or under threat; when you are attacking him as a person, then he will certainly try to defend himself, But if you do not attack him as a person but you try to talk to the act, then, more likely that they would understand and open up to talk about what did actually happen.

So, in the best-case scenario, you would tell your kid (as an example): Listen, I still love you, you’re still my Alexander, However, I am disappointed in what you have done and your action, this particular action is not something we have agreed on, this is not what I raised you to do and how to treat your sister Maria.

So, this particular action made me upset, and Not YOU.

This way, you will have a discussion over the action itself rather than him being incompetent, and so on.

This can be true when we are in a work environment, a lot of articles and talks highlight the concept of Psychological Safety, which is defined as the belief that you won’t be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes.

So as you move back to management, you look at and talk to your employee; If that employee started feeling under threat because you are touching on her competence to perform her job, eventually she will pull up her defense mechanisms, and you will lose the touch.

So, this week’s that is about focusing on the actions and not the person in your criticism, and when you want to manage the person you are actually focusing on your work relationship, and therefore, you have a certain expectation that they need to meet and their actions are a big indication to that, but it’s your duty as a manager to provide them with the appropriate Psychological Safety in return.

Trust me, it will pay off in the longer run.

Have a wonderful week.


Article originally Posted in The Monday Tip Newsletter on LinkedIn.

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    Author samerchidiac

    A Chief Innovation Officer, Business Psychologist, International Expert & Speaker on Strategic Innovation & Digital Transformation with an extensive regional experience of more than 20 years covering 30+ countries in the Middle East & Africa. Living an influential life where his thoughts, visions, and teachings reach more than 500+ thousand followers from around the world on a daily basis through Books, Articles, Quotes, Podcasts and Social Interactions, along with International Speaking engagements on topics related to Innovation, Strategy, Motivation & Technology.

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