Office politics are daunting. At times they are even worse than negotiating through the mysterious and very territorial world of teenage cliques. While there are many ways you can cause strife, big and small, there is one surefire approach that will always lead to alienation, whether intended or not.
Trust and loyalty are integral to building good relationships in any environment, the office being no exception. When they are absent or broken, it is difficult to work well with others. An easy way to destroy trust and loyalty lies in how you give feedback.
When providing positive feedback, you can’t go wrong. Tell the person face-to-face or tell others about it and everything will be good. However, negative feedback is a different story. Many people have difficulty telling others that they are having problems or issues with them or their work. So instead of going directly to the person, they use others as a communication system. They discuss the problems they are having with other co-workers and eventually the person hears about it second, third or fourth-hand. Unfortunately, now the whole office has heard about it too. The co-worker is left feeling embarrassed and angry, wondering “Why didn’t they just say something to me?” and “What else have they been saying about me?” Not only has their trust and loyalty been damaged, but now everyone else that was part of the discussion is left thinking if the same thing is being done to them.
If you do this, you can acquire a reputation as the office gossip and bad mouth, someone your co-workers don’t trust to speak to or work with. To avoid such an image, if you have negative feedback, go directly to the person it pertains to and discuss it with them. Don’t talk to others about it. If you do need advice, go to someone you can trust not to circulate it and be professional – no venting or gossiping, just stick to the facts.
Providing negative feedback is a necessary evil of the workplace. However, you can ensure you stay on good terms with your co-workers by always speaking directly to them when you have problems. They may not always like what you have to say, but they will respect you for coming to them with it.
Renée Eaton is a Communications Coordinator for BizXcel. She applies her creative and innovative thinking to corporate communications, e-learning and course development.