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Dignity in Crisis

Wednesday, April 14, 2021 - Joe Kiedinger

One of the most difficult aspects of leadership is providing negative feedback to an associate. It’s awkward. It’s uncomfortable. And, often, it can feel undignifying. No one wants to give the impression that they’re high, mighty and brimming with perfection while handing down a message of “You’re not good enough.”

But providing feedback on performance is a necessary part of being a leader. So, how do we approach it in a more dignifying manner? By remembering the four elements of human dignity:

  1. Empathy: Express that you understand your associate is in a difficult spot and that it’s not easy to receive negative feedback. By humanizing the experience and showing common ground you enable your associate to retain their human dignity.
  2. Truth: Be straightforward. When walking through difficult conversations, we tend to use many words to say one small thing. It’s almost as if we think that by flowering the borders of our core meaning, we soften the blow. This can be very confusing for your associate who is wondering what you’re getting at. Get to the point, respectfully.
  3. Control: Once you’ve truthfully shared what the problem is, give your associate control over the solution. No one wants to be talked down or told how to do their job. By putting the onus on your associate they retain autonomy. 
  4. Time: While the topic of conversation has likely been on your mind for weeks, your associate may have been completely unaware of an issue. Give them the time form their own thoughts and create a plan to move forward.

This approach can be used in other times of conflict as well. The goal is the same: to help the listener keep their dignity.


ACTION PLAN: Replay a recent episode of conflict in your head. How could that moment have played out if you had kept human dignity at the forefront of your mind?

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