Leaders Who Avoid Difficult Conversations Negatively Impact Productivity

Posted by on Aug 10, 2013 in Authentic Leadership, SWD | 1 comment

HearNoEvil2You’ve heard me say that avoiding difficult conversations is a rip off.  For those leaders and managers with a big heart,  it can be very difficult to course-correct others.  I believe this is often a training issue. First of all, if you as a leader do not identify the red flags, you will not be able to notice where course correction is needed. Secondly, if you don’t have the skills or tools, you will go into default mode which is avoidance or agreement.

Companies invest hundreds of thousands on technology and equipment and often very little to give the supervisors and managers the tools and skills they need to lead effectively.

Here are all the components of the conversation about a leader or manager who refuses to have a difficult conversation:

1. Complaining about the performance of an employee

2.  Feeling misunderstood and not taking ownership

3.  Making excuses

4. Victim mindset

Let’s break it down to a script with a leader and a make-believe challenger,  so you can see it from a different dimension:

Manager: I’ve had an employee that’s worked for me for a decade and she never finishes her paper work. We have to have people follow up behind her just to get everything right. (Complaining)

Challenger: So let me get this straight: you are the manager who hires and fires right?

Manager: Yes, that’s me.

Challenger: So what’s the problem?

Manager: Well, you don’t understand my situation. (Feeling misunderstood)

Challenger: What is the situation?

Manager: She’s been here 10 years, there is red tape with firing, and there are politics. (Excuses)

Challenger: You’ve just offered three excuses, so now what are you going to do about it?

Manager: Well, there’s nothing I can do about it. (Victim mentality)

Challenger: So this makes you a victim with no choices?

Manager: Well, I wouldn’t say that. What do you mean?

Challenger: Well the only people who have no choices are victims.  What do you think your employees think when they see you…the leader say there are no choices?

Manager: I never thought of it that way.

When you avoid helping an employee course-correct, you set in place many patterns that contribute to inefficiencies that negatively impact productivity:

  • The acceptance and precedence of poor performance
  • The positioning of yourself among your subordinates as a weak leader
  • Confusion about what constitutes excellence
  • Resentment among co-workers

It’s possible that your company is losing hundreds of thousands, or even millions due to a manager or supervisor who has an inability to have difficult conversations.  Consider the impact of an employee who has been with you over a decade and then do the math.  If this article resonates with you and you want to make a significant change, give me a call at 417.831.1799 or email me at marlene@stopworkplacedrama.com

marlene2Marlene Chism is a consultant, national speaker and author of Stop Workplace Drama (Wiley 2011). Marlene’s passion is developing wise leaders and helping people to discover, develop and deliver their gifts to the world.

Marlene’s message is spreading across the country at association meetings, corporate retreats, universities and other venues. If interested in exploring speaking or training opportunities please call 1.888.434.9085

One Comment

  1. Wow! I heard all of these excuses from my supervisor today! I am not in a position of authority; however, I sure wish I had read this article before I went to work today. Great advice, Marlene!


  1. 3 critical communication mistakes great leaders don’t make – InBusiness - […] rely on critical communication skills to resolve conflict, increase effectiveness, initiate difficult conversations, and keep everyone focused on the end…
  2. From communication mistakes to communication mastery - […] rely on critical communication skills to resolve conflict, increase effectiveness, initiatedifficult conversations, and keep everyone focused on the end…