“Tell me the truth, Doc… how long do I have?”
Have you ever been under the knife? Consider your state of mind when you feel especially vulnerable. Not only are you subjected to physical exposure via hospital gown ass-flap, your mental state reminds you that everything can change—you are figuratively and emotional exposed.
Being at the mercy of others can be debilitating as our present and future become a fog in an instant. When you find yourself in this “place,” there’s really only one thing you want.
“Talk to me.”
Unfortunately, to recognize good bedside manner, sometimes you must be exposed to the poor variety. Sounds like a simple request, but it’s a skill not everyone possesses and even fewer choose to master.
Despite good intentions, business leaders attempt to manage uncertainty as opposed to managing expectations. It’s easy to justify—there’s just too many variables that could change the outcome, so we will default to two poor communication practices:
- Silence: Communication vacuums are often mentioned as engagement “killers,” as individuals are left to their own devices to develop meaning to the events surrounding them.
- Insincerity: Not necessarily said with malicious intent, but communication without sincerity can be a career killer for an otherwise talented leader.
Why does this happen? Fear.
Fear that we’ll screw up the message. Fear that employees can’t handle the truth. Fear that we don’t have enough information. Fear that we might be wrong after all is said and done. It’s not (99% of the time) a matter of someone wanting to deliberately lie or deceive their employees, but you be the judge of how it’s interpreted. Uncertainty is different than “change;” uncertainty is personal, change is process. Dealing with our own uncertainty is tough enough, attempting to manage the uncertainty of others is fruitless.
What we want as employees (and patients) is for someone to give us the information available. I’d rather know that there’s going to be pain, soreness, discomfort, and even possible outcomes that I might not like.
Give it to me straight, Doc. I can handle it.
John Whitaker (“Whit”) is a SVP and Chief People Officer at Sage Dental and the founder of HRHardball.com (2008). He specializes in building and developing strong recruiting teams who are unafraid of “kicking the ant pile.” Like most Texans, he loves to tell a story (especially those that include an armadillo or a poker game) and cutting through the chaff…don’t take it personal.