Sugar Coating + Criticism = Trouble

White sugar cubes in a boat

Over time, it happens to all of us.  As a new manager/leader there comes a point when you must deliver that first bit of criticism or coaching that you know will not be what the employee wants to hear.  Often, out of fear of how to deal with that conversation we head down the sugar-coating path in an effort to soften the effects it has on that employee.  On the other hand, there could be an experienced manager who comes into a similar situation and decides to not be so direct.  After all, what can it hurt?

So what, you might ask.  What is the harm in trying not to be quite so direct?  Well, it boils down to a couple of simple things.

  1. Mixed messaging – “Am I doing it right or wrong?”
  2. Loss of respect from your team – “I wish my manager would just tell me where I stand.”

When necessary, give honest, genuine and direct criticism.  It’s not personal, it’s business and there are expectations.  So be efficient with the conversation and avoid taking the long road to explaining where they’re lacking.  That long road is where the sugar coaters live.  It is in those moments that we’re not being direct and clearly honest.  We start looking for ways to soften what we should say.  In the end, if that’s what we’ve done, we have failed our employee.  They will respond better to an honest message than they will if they’re unsure about what it is, exactly, that you are saying to them.  No one likes to hear when they are not doing something up to standard.  However, you are doing them a big disservice when you don’t help them to correct and avoid the same mistake from reoccurring.

So, lay off of the sugar, let the words do the heavy lifting in your conversations and your team will thank you.

Wishing you Growth!!


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