There's a fine, often-imperceptible line between some workers' beliefs and their professional behavior. Crossing that line is a fast way to insult and demoralize a capable employee. These are excellent reasons to know your workers and think twice about how you critique them. I have been—and still am—a reporter. I've also been a diagnostic equipment salesman. As a result, I've had plenty of opportunities to observe service personnel in tire dealerships and service shops. There's a rarified group among them who put their hearts and souls into their work every day. This proud, conscientious breed of worker has made you tons of money. Simply put, they treat your business as if it was theirs—not yours. These employees make and maintain eye contact with customers, learn their names and cope with their foibles. Ultimately, their warm, caring ways put a friendly, recognizable face on your dealership or service shop. Their personal approach is likely a major part of the reason your company generates so much repeat business. But beware, because this person's sunny disposition may dissolve faster than a snow ball in boiling water when you say the wrong thing at the wrong time. First, imagine that these workers have just taken it on the chin for some reason. For instance, a customer just wrongly vented all the day's frustrations on this employee after learning that repairs on his or her car are taking longer than expected. Your employees are embarrassed because they realized that no one alerted the customer about the delays. Or imagine that the workers are having a substandard day—perhaps a bad week. They aren't closing sales as normal. To aggravate the situation, it seems like every unresponsive or rude motorist within miles of your store has chosen this week to try price-shopping and brow-beating your sales staff. And yes, your normally cheery salespeople have encountered every one of these curmudgeons. So what have I repeatedly heard bosses say to these employees? "Oh, don't take that lip personally. That guy probably had a bad day," is one example. Another is, "Oh, don't take that rejection personally—sounded like the man was only shopping anyway." However, your usually stellar workers truly take their job very personally—a trait that cuts both ways. The point is that these perceived slights and rejections really sting them. What's more, your attempt to cheer them up may backfire because you may sound both ungrateful and gratuitous. Hearing your reaction, this worker may think, "You thankless jerk! You can't sell ice water in the middle of a desert and you have the gall to criticize me? Taking my work personally is OK as long as it lines your wallet, huh?" Instead of using phrases such as "taking things personally," take another tack. First, compliment the employee's efforts. Then try to make your critique sound more objective, more reasonable. For instance, you may note, "Jean, you usually sense a customer's moods and needs very well. But we overlooked updating that fellow on the job and then he unloaded his anger on you. Hang in there and we'll all pay more attention to updates and follow-ups in the future." Or you might say, "Jean, keep working those fundamentals. You're very good but sometimes we encounter a bunch of prospects who are just plain obstinate, plain cranky—or both! Hang in there. Maybe tomorrow we'll think of different ways you might have closed those deals." So, recognize that the person does take the job personally. But try to politely critique, encourage, coach and inspire that worker without taking an unintentional jab at their beliefs and work ethic.
Keep "personal' out of worker critique
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