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Sooner is better

Tom Wall Published on 11 January 2011


Think back to when you were a kid. If you broke something at the neighbor’s or got in trouble at school, how long did you wait to tell your parents? Chances are, someone else beat you to it, right? So how is that any different from the way you (or your kids) communicate bad news today?

Most managers will agree that one of the most frustrating realities at work is that nobody will ever admit to breaking something or making a mistake.

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When you eventually ask “What happened?” and “Who did it?”, the most common replies are “I don’t know” and “It wasn’t me.” And as hard as you try to persuade your team to be up-front and honest about these accidents, that seems almost impossible to accomplish!

So how would you describe your communication style? Whether you need to deliver good news or bad news, how do you provide feedback to your team? Do you bring up your concerns right away or do you prefer to wait until you’re forced to finally address them?

Now don’t get me wrong, there might be an advantage to waiting awhile before confronting a situation. For one, waiting provides you a little more time to clarify your thoughts and consider the potential outcomes and consequences of your feedback.

Instead of making comments that might backfire on you and create more conflict, it’s usually wise to prepare a strategy beforehand.

But most of the time, waiting too long only makes matters worse. In the hopes that problems will magically disappear or simply be resolved on their own, most of us have a tendency to postpone these tough, inevitable conversations until another day.

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So how should you start that uncomfortable, yet necessary conversation? Be sincere and start by saying “I need to tell you something that I don’t want to say and you probably don’t want to hear ...” If you and the other person genuinely wish to improve the situation, you most likely will.

Regardless of why you decide to procrastinate when you should choose to communicate, letting too much time go by is almost never in the best interest of anyone on your team.

Not only is constructive feedback free, it’s also one of the best tools you have to encourage the type of performance you desire and correct any of the behavior that you don’t. Waiting another day, week or month to provide feedback to your employees only delays a potential solution to your problems and costs you more money in the end.

Yet, all too often, team meetings are only scheduled when there are problems, and ‘annual’ performance reviews are conducted less than once a year.

Unfortunately, we’re all guilty of waiting too long to communicate our concerns and provide feedback in a timely manner. The truth is, whether you’re sharing good news or bad, eventually it needs to be said. And usually ... the sooner, the better. PD

Tom Wall

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