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Criticism Or Con Job?
By Jack Donohue   Printer Friendly Version

Situation A - Your employee comes to see you about the overtime that has been necessary over the past two weeks. "It's unfair! I've got a life, you know!"

Situation B - Your sixteen-year-old daughter wants to know why she must attend a longstanding family function (e.g., Sunday brunch). "It's unfair! I've got a life, you know!"

Situation C - A player on your recreational-league sports team is put out because of a scheduled early Saturday practice. "It's unfair! I've got a life, you know!"

Are these all the same?

Should you handle the situations the same way?

Don't confuse handling a situation with handling a person! We can't/don't handle people! We can handle/control situations because of our experience, position, authority or skill but we are doing a disservice to others (and to ourselves) to even think that we can control another person. We'll discuss handling a situation in another article; let's look at the current challenge and answer some questions. All three examples could be the same or completely different scenarios. And no, we can never handle any two scenarios exactly the same, because the people and time are constantly changing.

There are three messages I get from each of the scenarios described at the beginning of this piece:

1. This is unfair (a criticism)
2. Someone wants to make some noise because of another reason (a complaint)
3. Someone is looking for an advantage and is using this situation, and their reaction to it, as a lever (a con job)

Situation A - Is overtime unfair? Fairness, as beauty, is a matter of perception and point of view. Was the overtime unexpected? Was it a result of poor planning? Could it have been avoided? Did someone else let down and cause the problem? In other words, who caused the overtime? If it's your fault or the fault of someone you supervise (shall we say 'lead'?) then you must be sympathetic and try to work around the perceived problem. Can we schedule this time? Is overtime pay adequate for the inconvenience … or is there no compensation at all? How good a worker is s/he? Is this one of many problems this employee has had?

Situation B - We use the same approach here - What is the actual situation? How did it happen? Is it a surprise to someone? How often does your daughter complain?

Situation C - Again, similar approach - also, do we really NEED this practice? Is it a reaction (on your part) to a sub-expectation performance? School more important than sport - OF COURSE! But is that the problem? Does the player find time for recreational "hanging out" and other activities? Is school more important than games … or just practice?

In all of the above situations we must be knowledgeable about:

- the criticizer (complainer / con man)
- the leader
- the situation

The more we know our people, job, and most importantly, ourselves, the better our evaluations as to whether it was:

- a complaint
- a criticism
- a con job

If you're not sure, treat it as an honest criticism and look to yourself! - Coach D


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