Q: I supervise three technicians in a busy medical clinic. These employees recently complained to management that I belittle them, show them no respect, and occasionally cause them to leave work in tears. I was told that they greatly admire my clinical skills, but find me to be intimidating.
My boss has said that I must resolve this communication issue so the technicians will feel comfortable bringing me their problems. I need to know how to interact with these employees in a way that does not seem threatening. By the way, none of them has ever given me this feedback directly.
A: At the risk of stating the obvious, employees who feel threatened by their boss are unlikely to provide any face-to-face criticism. Going to your manager felt like a much safer way to express their concerns.
I assume that you have no desire to terrorize the technicians, so you must lack a fundamental understanding of what it means to be a leader. In your current role, relationship skills are just as important for success as technical skills. Leadership is all about motivating people to do their best, but demeaning comments will only motivate them to leave.
To begin building bridges with your employees, meet with each one individually, explain your desire to become a better supervisor, and ask how you can be more helpful and supportive. These discussions should provide a road map for self-improvement, but if the changes seem too difficult, ask your boss to arrange for some appropriate coaching or training.
Q: On our recent appraisals, everyone on my team received a lower rating than last year, despite the fact that our level of performance hasn't changed at all. We have always received good reviews in the past, so this is troubling. Several months ago, our company was acquired, top management was replaced, and a new appraisal system was implemented. But I don't see why this would reduce our ratings. What do you make of it?
A: Unfortunately, you have now learned the hard way that many factors can influence performance appraisal scores. Given your company's recent history, the sudden ratings decline is undoubtedly being driven by a shift in management policies or expectations.
If this phenomenon is widespread, with many people receiving lower scores, the company may be trying to correct a case of “ratings creep,” which occurs when managers bestow high marks too freely. The common fix for this problem is to restrict higher ratings to a certain percentage of employees.
But if other groups have not been downgraded, then the new executives are probably dissatisfied with your team's performance. Expectations often change radically when a company is acquired, so your previously acceptable results may now be considered insufficient.
Of course, management should have warned employees about any change that could affect performance reviews. But since they failed to do so, you should take the initiative to ask your boss or human resources manager why the ratings were lowered and how they can be improved.
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