HBR: How Criticizing in Private Undermines Your Team

userpic-2060-100x100Our Summary: Criticizing employees in private is not healthy for the team.  A better approach is to, respectfully, raise the issue in a team meeting driving, peer accountability.

This relates to FairSetup in a huge way – the very process that we recommend to our clients encourages group feedback.  There are several elements here:

First, we recommend that the feedback is collected in the following order: self, peer, manager.  This creates an opportunity for an individual who missed deadlines to report on missing deadlines to peers before being publicly called out.

Second, there needs to be a consequence.  Generally, the consequence of failing the team is vague at best, unless it rolls up into a long-cycle appraisal or a firing…  neither is very constructive.  Under FairSetup, there is an immediate consequence in a rating being recorded, which affects impact calculation.

Third, under FairSetup, there is a direct connection between how expectations are met and compensation by way of impact calculation.  The variable compensation affected doesn’t need to be large (although it’s good when it is) – but it is a strong driver and an answer to the question of “Why should I bother to exert pressure on my peers?”  So the assessment affects compensation in a way that is perceived to be fair.

Here is the beginning of the article:

How Criticizing in Private Undermines Your Team

by Roger Schwarz  |   8:00 AM March 25, 2013

You are holding your weekly team leadership meeting. You are discussing with your direct reports how to handle the project delays that have caused the team to miss its quarterly numbers. You know that Ted — one of your direct reports — contributed to missing the numbers by missing two key deadlines. You’ve seen this kind of behavior before from Ted, and you’ve seen the team’s frustration with Ted. You decide to not say anything to Ted in the meeting, but afterward you privately tell him that how he’s letting you and the team down.

If you’re like most leaders, you believe in the adage “praise in public and criticize in private.” So when a team member does something that negatively affects the team, you usually talk to the team member in private. But this can be a dangerous adage to follow because it significantly reduces accountability, the quality of team decisions, and your team’s ability to manage itself. As Richard Hackman said reflecting on his research, “[T]he most powerful thing a leader can do to foster effective collaboration is to create conditions that help members competently manage themselves.” Here’s why criticizing in private undermines your team, and what you can do to build a smarter team starting today.

Is your leadership team a real team — one in which members are interdependent with each other for meeting team goals? If so, they should also be accountable to each other for working together to achieve those goals, including how they rely on, work with, and make decisions together. Yet when you “criticize in private” for behavior that occurred in a team meeting or affects the team, you undermine team members’ accountability to each other. You send the message that team members are accountable only to you, not to the team. You also send the entire team the message that they don’t need to hold each other accountable — you’ll do it for them. In short, you shift accountability from the team to you.

You also make it more difficult to solve the problem. If you tell Ted his missing deadlines contributed to the team missing its goals, you and Ted may reach an agreement on how he will change his behavior, and that may inadvertently create new problems for other team members. Or Ted may tell you that other team members made it difficult for him to meet his deadlines, that it’s not his fault; at that point, you’re likely to become a human ping-pong ball, shuttling back and forth between Ted and other team members trying to understand the problem. The information to solve this problem lies with Ted and the other team members.

Read the Full Article Here

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