31-day challenge: Radical Transparency

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I am a big fan of radical transparency; always have been. I believe it solves more problems than it creates. Multiple corporate gurus encourage embracing radical transparency, however, this month I will focus on one particular aspect that I value most. However, let me begin by narrating a recent incident.

In my most recent 1:1 with my manager (yes, I have one too), he asked me to summarize a particular conversation. Surprised, I asked for the context. Turns out, earlier that week, in a conversation with a recruiting manager, I said something that offended him. While he did not say a word to me, he sneaked a rather long email to my manager expressing his sadness. With me, he continued interactions as per usual. It wasn’t until my manager discussed the conversation with me did I realize that I had hurt him (unintentionally, of course). My manager apologized to him on my behalf. To me, this is the craziest workplace practice ever and one that I can rarely wrap my head around. To my agony, I found out that complaining to your manager instead of dealing with the person directly is a common practice at the workplace.

Here is what I would have done instead. If something someone said hurt me, I would tell the person directly. Sure, it would make for an awkward conversation but I would give an opportunity to the person to understand my point of view, explain their point of view and apologize if necessary. If I was extremely infuriated, maybe I would mark the manager in an email but I would most definitely not knock the person off the ‘to’ list. The simple rationale being – how is the person ever going to fix the problem/mistake if they never know about it and it is not always the manager’s responsibility to do so. Embrace some responsibility and take on a few difficult conversations.

If I were the manager, I would probably just forward the email to the employee and ask the two to sort it out between themselves (Cue from the book ‘Work Rules’ where the same happened with Laszlo Bock). A third person is rarely needed unless the situation is completely out of hand.

The 31-day challenge, to you & to me, is thus simple – solve the problem yourself. Do not go squeak to the manager and leave it to them to make things right. This is not kindergarten and we aren’t children. Deal with people the way adults should.

What do you think? When was the last time you avoided the conversation and went directly to the manager?

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