Discuss the issues outlined in the excerpt below.
I’m not going to comment on the general structural issues and dynamics, as they’re reasonably obvious. Suffice it to say that using wikis and blogs can easily become another form of ongoing 360-degree review process, running continuously.
The full Globe and Mail newspaper article is here.
Managers might think the lines of communication are open, but an unwillingness to listen to tough issues leaves many underlings fearful of speaking frankly. Rebecca Dube reports
‘Hi there boss, I just wanted to let you know things are going great! Really great. In general. Yeah … um, though, there are a few issues. Like, the marketing plan? That you drew up? Is not working. At all."
"Hmmm … I’m pretty busy now. Can we talk later?"
"Um, sure. It’s just that the numbers are sliding really badly, and we’re running out of – "
"Sorry, gotta take this call."
Sound familiar? No one likes bad news. But new research shows that unwillingness to hear tough messages is the biggest blind spot for bosses.
"There is, in general, too much fear in organizations," says Patrick Barwise, emeritus professor of management and marketing at London Business School.
He and a colleague analyzed more than 4,000 U.S. managers’ 360-degree reviews – so called because they incorporate feedback from subordinates and co-workers as well as superiors.
"The gap between managers’ self-evaluations and colleagues’ assessments is widest when it comes to gauging receptiveness to hearing about difficult issues," Dr. Barwise and Sean Meehan, professor of marketing and change management at IMD business school in Switzerland, wrote in April’s issue of the Harvard Business Review.
The biggest disconnect showed up when rating managers’ abilities to "Encourage others to express their views, even contrary ones," and "Listen willingly to concern expressed by others."
In other words, bosses think their "open door policy" is working well, while their underlings feel like they’re talking to a brick wall.
[ Snip ... ]
One culprit is lack of time. Listening to a problem and solving it takes longer than nodding along to "everything’s great" updates. Of course, that’s time well spent if it prevents disaster in the long run, but too many companies forget that perspective.
Some companies actively try to foster an environment of openness. Dr. Barwise points to the example of Toyota, where any employee – no matter how junior – is empowered to stop the assembly line if he or she sees a problem.
[ Snip ... ]
Ironically, Dr. Barwise thinks that as the world economy increasingly struggles, creating more bad news for business, the tendency for managers to evade hard truths only grows.
"I think it’s getting worse," he says.
Employee – Speaking truth to power
How do you talk so your boss will listen? Some tips:
Pick the right boss. If you work for a Stalin-type, all your lovely communication skills will be for naught. Keep a low profile and work on your résumé instead.
Present factual evidence. Make your case with data, not opinions. It helps if you’re right, too.
Don’t be a gloomy Gus. Discuss flaws in the context of making the company stronger, and focus on the benefits of fixing them.
Don’t sit on it. If you spot a problem, raise it in conversation as soon as possible.
Boss – Can you handle the truth?
If you’re the boss, here are some tips on encouraging honest communication so you find out what you need to know from your employees:
Repetition, repetition, repetition. You can’t declare an "open-door policy" on the first day of work and expect it to sink in. If you want truthful feedback, ask for it regularly.
Don’t shoot the messenger. Sure, you know that, but putting it into practice is hard. If you freak out when you hear about a cost overrun, chances are you won’t hear about the next one.
The truth takes time. If you rush through meetings and give your employees the impression that you never have time for them, they’re less likely to come to you with important concerns.
If your company does 360-degree reviews, pay attention to them.
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