A reader writes: "Some of my supervisors feel that I need to be shielded from
bad news. They think they are doing me a favor when they keep a problem from me that may
go away before I find out about it. As a result, I've had to deal with some big problems
in the area of customers and employees that could have been easily handled had I known the
situation early on. What can I do to change this?"
telling your supervisory staff that you want to hear bad along with good news is not
enough. They have to be reassured that they will not be the unfortunate messenger who is
shot for bringing bad news and that you, as the boss, can handle negative information.
ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
Asking the popular boss question "How are things going?" will
not encourage a flood of information good or bad. The typical response to this type of
question is optimistic and uninformative. Ask questions that deal with specifics:
How is the new cash application person working out?
Is the new credit scoring system improving our application processing as
much as we thought it would?
Have our new follow up procedures improved Amalgamated's payments?
Questions such as these convey that you are familiar with the operations
and not just asking questions to seem interested.
AVOID SOLUTIONS ONLY
In the 70's and 80's management programs taught us to only accept
problems if they were accompanied by solutions. The idea was if there is no solution there
is no problem. This thinking, although correct, has prevented us from finding about
problems simply because not everyone subordinate to us is capable of finding the solution.
Recognize that your experience and grasp of wider possibilities can have a positive effect
on the problem solving ability of subordinates. It is one of your functions to teach.
REWARD THE BEARER OF BAD TIDINGS
It is not easy to be joyful when receiving bad news, but it is possible
to downplay the glumness of the moment. Rather then reacting in a negative manner upon
hearing bad news try:
I'm glad you came to me with this now rather then waiting any longer.
This could have been worse but now we have the opportunity to fix it
before it can create some real damage.
The chances of getting negative information timely is determined by the
relationship you promote between you and your subordinates. A hostile and remote
relationship promotes the with holding of information. A friendly and approving
relationship encourages employees to come to the boss with whatever they feel is
important, good or bad.
I wish you well.