Do You Shoot The Messenger?
When an employee comes into your office with an issue, how do you respond? Do you see your messengers as guides or just complainers?
In the workplace, “Shooting the Messenger” is an expression to describe a manager who reacts harshly to an employee that bears bad news. This person is brave enough to step into the manager’s office to share their concerns. Yet, the manager doesn’t want to deal with the problem so they lash out instead.
I worked at a company that sold a product that required a Customer Support team to handle customer’s questions and problems. One employee in the Customer Service department regularly had something negative to say about the product. Since they dealt with customers who used the product every day, this individual was keenly aware of the product issues. He was a messenger from the customers, yet the manager took little he shared because he felt the employee was being negative.
The manager felt that the employee only complained but never provided solutions to the issues. The manager was correct as well as he missed the valuable asset the employee was bringing. This asset was the potential improvement in the product, which would only add more value for the company.
Yes, there are employees that complain and have no interest in being part of the solution. That’s where your input is important. In managing employees, you need to balance input from employees as well as guide them to think on their own.
How Does a Manager Shoot the Messenger
A manager can shoot the messenger several ways:
Give the employee lip service, but basically ignore them.
Managers become overwhelm and prefer to ignore the issues.
Give the employee a bad performance review because of their complaining.
Make it difficult for the employee with disrespectful behavior towards them.
How to Change
Instead of seeing complaints as a problem, step into the world of reframing. See the complaints from employees and customers as opportunities to increase value for the company.
Learn to manage your employee’s complaints. You do this by being open to the content of the message. The more available you are to listen to the employee, the better able you are to discern important information vs. employee’s style.
Set expectations to all employees. You will listen to them and they will bring their best ideas for a potential solution. Even if their ideas are not functional, it doesn’t matter. You are setting the expectations for innovation, creativity and the ability to think.
Don’t shoot the messenger. Instead, encourage all employees to be active in uncovering issues within your department. It doesn’t mean that you can tackle everything, but rather you have a great list of enhancements to increase the value for the customer as well as enhance the workplace for your employees.
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Generations at Work: Managing the Clash of Veterans, Boomers, Xers, and Nexters in Your Workplace by Ron Zemke, Claire Raines and Bob Filipczak
A-HA! Performance: Building and Managing a Self-Motivated Workforce by Douglas Walker & Stephen Sorkin