Say to whom its meant

You are unhappy with a team member who is taking undue advantage of flexi work hours. He often comes late, and leaves at normal time. He misses deliverables. You give him feedback, yet you don’t see much change in his behavior.

Few days later, you express your frustration in a team meeting with 15 other members and make a generic comment, “You folks come and go when you want, work is suffering, this is completely unacceptable”. You see some members, especially the diligent ones, looking baffled. You ignore them and continue to badger.

Such behavior by leaders is inexplicable – giving generic feedback, intended for one person, to a large group. Yet, it happens all the time! I have seen inexperienced / new managers do it as much as experienced leaders holding top positions.

Notwithstanding the reasons, this leadership behavior is counterproductive. The person whom the feedback is intended for, conveniently takes cover in the group. The optimistic ones might even think that it’s meant for someone else. Worse still, they might take assurance in numbers – “I am not the only one who comes late and leaves early”.

On the other hand, majority in the room for whom the feedback is not intended, feel disappointed and unappreciated. They may misinterpret the leader’s message, (in this example) that flexi work policy is expected to stay in paper, not something to be used.

Here’s my learning from such experience (I was in such meeting few days back):

Give feedback in a team setting only and only if it involves majority of the members. Don’t succumb to the temptation!

If it involves just one or two people, take it offline one-on-one, irrespective of how tough it is.