When you’re too scared to ask questions

As much as I would like leaders to be more compassionate and empathetic with their subordinates, I also would prefer the latter to have the courage, humility and discipline to follow through on their responsibilities as team players. That goes beyond their KRAs and KPIs. And if that requires one to call out on an unethical, erratic or dictatorial behaviour so be it. Even if it’s their leader at the other end of the line.

In businesses, conflict resolution is a critical skill. One cannot take it lightly. And when I say “calling out” when things are off the line doesn’t mean I’m suggesting a couple. Far from it. In fact, if that’s what you’re thinking let me tell you — it’s downright idiotic.

What I’m recommending here is that if you’re struggling with performance issues or feel singled out or just listless about the overall direction, you need to talk. Most importantly, you will need to honour your relationship with the leader and commit to over-communicating what’s on your mind and how you’re feeling (while taking the conversation offline, of course). As a best practice, I recommend that you document the discussion and ensure that both parties’ are on the same page and have heard their unbiased thoughts on the given situation is been captured.

A couple of things happen at this stage:

  1. Both you and your leader have a clear sense of the situation and what you feel for each other’s behaviour. In most cases, they have greater clarity and one of them usually back down because they didn’t have the insight to work with previously. And I personally believe this is quite a powerful way to develop a very strong relationship with a leader/subordinate who can see things from your point of view. You’ve just won a staunch supporter who know exactly how you think and is convinced that your intentions are for the greater good. It’s also a great place to work on some of the shortcomings to serve better and come through each other’s expectations.
  2. Things get even worse. We have bruised egos, incessant blaming or even name-calling! You now know exactly what the other person thinks of you and now have a strong motive to fire (as in get rid of a “problem”) or quit the organisation (as in “who wants to work with a pest”).

While it’s not ideal, I still think #2 is a much better place than a compromise wherein you can’t express the real challenges of a work-related situation. Because that’ll feel like you’ve been setup to fail, and fail you eventually will. What’s the point?

Your biggest responsibility as a highly valuable team player or leader is that you have the courage to be yourself and ask those tough questions. You ought to have the humility to take in feedback, work on it until the larger objective is met. is been met. And biggest of all, the discipline to keep at it no matter who you are or what rank in the hierarchy you hold.

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