A Learning and Growing Journey by HELEN TEH (Part 2 of 3) 

<If you missed part 1, click here>

I was conducting a Performance Management Workshop for a group of staff.  We came to the part where we discussed about what we must do for the one on one session.  The individual in front of me (let’s call him, David) said, “We must be positive”.  And I say, “Great!” and I animated the point out into my slide.  “Be Positive. Give Benefit of Doubts.”  I asked David, “What do you mean by “Be Positive” ?”. 

David said, “Well, be positive”.  I laughed with the class.  David was relaxed and smiling.When the laughter stopped, I said, “Let’s role play a little.  I am your appraiser, your manager.  Ok?”

David readily says, “Ok”.

I said, “David, you know for the past 6 months your performance sucks.” 

Immediately the whole class saw the change in David’s whole demeanor.  The smile went away and he looks upset.  He says, “You can’t say my performance sucks”.  

I said, “Why not?  I am the Manager and you can’t control what I am going to say to you.”And I continue, “So, how do you stay positive?”

David seems to then come out of the role play (and may be the trance from the word “sucks”), and said, “My manager can use the word sucks but not for my performance review”.  

I said, “Why not?  We cannot control what others will say – whether appraiser or appraise or anyone.”

That started a whole new discussion about “words” as there were different reactions to that word within the room.  And of course, other “rude” words came into our discussion too, ie. “shit”, “what the hell”, “shut up”, rolling of eyes, etc.  There was even a discussion on how a sound “chet” (a sound made using the mouth when someone is irritated) meaning different things to different people in the room.

A Senior Manager in the room suddenly said, “OMG, all those years I have been using certain words”.  Many heads nodded to agree.

As in coaching, different words give different meanings to different individuals due to the different background, culture, life experiences, emotional reactions and judgement, and their values system.  Hence, it is important for us to be careful with our words and actions with others.

What are your frequently used words or action which may send a different message to others?

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