In part I, we shared the first and might we add, epic, Leadership Fail Statement, “I’ll find time in the coming weeks”. The statement was made by a C-suite executive to an employee who escalated an issue they’d been unsuccessfully navigating and attempting to resolve with the direct leadership team of said executive for months. The allegations were serious and organizationally damaging and yet, had been continually ignored.
Having sat in the C-suite at organizations and navigated many scenarios where situations came to our attention when they were at, or nearing boiling point, we’re going to share our perspectives on what a more appropriate response to the employee could have been. We’ll also share how our amended response demonstrates true leadership, elicits trust, and is grounded in inclusivity –an approach that can lead to customer and employee re-engagement.
Original Exclusionary Response: “I’ll find some time in the coming weeks”.
New Inclusion-anchored Response:
“x, thank you for sharing your experience related to xxxx (person or situation) with me. Given what you’ve shared, it certainly makes sense that you are disappointed/upset/concerned.
Your experience and learning more about it matters to me. I’m traveling/ out of the office/ unavailable to connect today/until x; however, I’m going to ask xxxx, included here, to help us find time. Are there any upcoming days this week, or within the next two that should be avoided on your end?
Again, thank you for sharing this experience with me. You have my commitment to working with you to further understand and address the concerns raised”.
Now, let’s break down the rationale behind the new response …
“x, thank you for sharing your experience related to xxxx (person or situation) with me”. Opening with thank you supports and acknowledges the humanity of the individual and their experience. Acknowledgement says, “I see you; I hear you and I appreciate that this may have been difficult for you to share”. The act of acknowledgement has further benefits, including combating emotional suppression. Research has shown that the suppression of emotions typically occurs due to feeling unheard and unsafe. Consistently pushing our emotions away can have harmful impacts on blood pressure, sleep, relationships, and mortality.
“Given what you’ve shared, it certainly makes sense that you are disappointed/upset/concerned”. Using the same descriptor word the person used when describing the situation to you validates their feelings and communicates to them that you are listening. #GemAlert – Do NOT insert your own interpretation, descriptor word(s), or assumptions. For example, if the word ‘frustrated’ wasn’t used, don’t label what has been expressed as “frustration”. Doing so runs the risk of creating further harm particularly as negative stereotypes about individuals and communities are traumatic and deeply harmful for those who experience them (e.g., parents being less committed to their work or The Angry Black Woman Stereotype at Work). Remember this is THEIR experience, it is not an opportunity for you to question, debate or label the experience and what it has meant to them.
“Your experience and learning more about it matters to me. I’m traveling/ out of the office/ unavailable to connect today/until x; however, I’m going to ask xxxx, included in this response, to help us find time. Are there any upcoming days this week, or within the next two that should be avoided on your end?” By stating your availability, asking for theirs and communicating the timeframe in which you seek to connect, you are communicating your commitment to addressing the matter while inviting them into the decision around what a mutually agreeable time for the discussion could be. Invitation into the decision regarding when you will be available is both respectful and empowering. Invitation may also help foster a sense of trust and may improve employee motivation, creativity, and engagement.
“Again, thank you for sharing this experience with me. You have my commitment to working with you to further understand and address the concerns raised”. Closing out by once again acknowledging the humanity of the person and making clear your intention to address their concerns and serves as a baseline to reestablish trust.
Your business and the livelihood of others depends on you, be an example worthy of emulation!
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