No one has ever accused me of “beating around the bush” or being coy. If I say something, there is never any doubt about what I mean and where the other person stands. My employees have sometimes bristled from the feedback I have provided about their poor quality work, even though they have been told about my direct approach upon their hiring. I do not talk behind anyone’s back; in fact, I adopt the opposite approach of saying exactly what I mean. I believe my direct style of communication is more helpful than hurtful, in that everyone knows how I feel. I dislike playing the types of mind games in which people hide their true feelings or opinions, instead saying what they believe other people want to hear. It is this type of behavior, in my opinion, that results in poor employee performance because the employee is falsely assured his/her performance is solid then, upon receiving negative feedback via a performance evaluation, the employee is taken aback by the supervisor’s true feelings. My spouse/business partner and I include several interview questions for prospective employees to gauge their ability to obtain constructive criticism in direct language that is not sugar coated. Some prospective employees are easily screened out with our interview process, while others think they can withstand being told they are less than perfect until it happens too many times. In these times in which everyone likes to be a winner, everyone likes to feel good about themselves, etc., I believe a reality check is in store. Telling it like it is, in my view, is a form of honesty and openness that is part of who I am. And that’s how I feel, truly.
Melissa’s comments are very direct in this post, as they are in her everyday communications. And, while she mentions employee errors, she is also very direct when employees are doing things right. That is, she reinforces their good performance and provides direct praise. And, there is also a need to point out that, while she tends to be direct, when being direct one must temper some comments rather than just spout off and “blast someone.” Directness should not be interpreted as “getting someone told” but rather, ensuring that the issues, negative, positive, or neutral, or told clearly, without hedging in a way that leaves a shadow of doubt. But, it does not mean doing this without regard to others’ feelings. We once heard a competitor trial consultant answer an attorney’s question at a seminar by saying “That is the dumbest question anyone ever asked me and I’m not going to try to answer it.” Direct? Sure. Tactful, smart? No. Melissa, despite her preference for directness, does not go that far. And, both of us believe that, with our clients, we have to be direct, tell the truth as we see it and not try to “sugar coat” the realities of their cases. Surprisingly, a few attorneys have been upset that we did not “like” their case as much as they did. But, that’s not our job. Our job is to shoot straight and help the clients deal with reality. So, whether dealing with employees or clients, being direct is efficient and effective, as long as it is done to be helpful, not hurtful.