Nobody likes to be criticized.
Receiving feedback or constructive criticism, yes but being criticized?
By being too critical, the message is lost on the receiver who hears the bad parts and goes into defensive mode. Even if there is some truth in the criticism, it gets lost in the communication and instead of improved performance; conflicts grow which only hamper productivity both for the individual and the organization.
The other nice thing about Manager was that he was democratic in meting out Monday Morning Bashing. The team was bonded by confusion and analysis sessions post bashing. I leave it to the reader to figure out how productive our Mondays were!
Somewhere along the line, Manager must have learned about sandwiching criticism, so the dialogue would have gone like this
Manager “Good morning, You did a great job getting out the report on Friday”
Subordinate “Thank you, I did my best”
Manager “You met the deadline but it was the worst report I have ever read, it is blah blah. Everyone says it is this that and the other” (and lots of generalizations)
Subordinate (In stunned silence trying to figure out what is being said)
Manager “Well, do better next time. Keep up the good work”.
The above dialogue is a sanitized version of what actually used to happen.
When I joined the department, I was stunned the first few times and coped thanks to the camaraderie of old veterans of Monday Morning Bashing who were supportive. I was advised to ignore it and just focus on my work. Going to Human Resources was not considered an option because Manager exercised great clout with the higher ups. Those who could not handle it left for greener pastures.
I must have gotten out from the wrong side of my bed one Monday because I found my voice during my allotted session. Saturated beyond my limits, I asked a simple question
“What exactly have I done wrong? Please give me an example”
Manager flustered and went into generalizations but by now I was not in the mood to let go and politely but firmly kept repeating my request, like a broken record, for specific examples.
I think Manager got the message because my sessions were always shorter and sometimes I did get feedback for improvement. Others who followed the same method noticed the difference in their sessions too.
The Art of Negative Inquiry to Tackle Criticism
We had stumbled upon the art of using negative inquiry to tackle criticism. In other words, we wanted to hear more negative talk. We were willing to listen but retained the right to agree or disagree. We were tired of listening to vague and obtuse criticism and wanted to get to the specifics of any problem and then deal with the problem. Negative inquiry is an assertiveness skill that has you do exactly the opposite of what you naturally feel like doing in the face of criticism. Instead of going on the defensive, you try to get to the real issue which is bothering the criticizer.
A good strategy is to firstly listen to the criticism. Then absorb it by either agreeing with the criticism or the principle. Then seek clarifications without getting upset or going on the defensive.
Could you please give me a specific example?
Please tell me more; I want to understand this better
What specifically/exactly did I do?
When asked to offer clarification, the criticizer has to step back and take on the burden of explaining himself better. Like Fogging, the critic might actually back off since it is quite exhausting to continue criticizing someone who is not reacting in the manner the critic would like. It might also lead to getting more information to reach the crux of the matter and finding a solution with minimum conflict and bad blood.
Have you experienced the Monday Morning Basher treatment? How would you suggest an employee handle it? Do share your views in the comments box below!
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