Labelling is a great strategy to use when one is upset and losing one’s temper over something. There is an employee who is an underperformer in my team. She always has an excuse for not meeting a deadline, shabby work or not coming in to work on several days in a month. Over a period of time I’ve developed a negative attitude towards her. I discount anything she says or does and sometimes I do this publicly. One of the members of my team gave me feedback the other day, saying that the tension between this employee and I was obvious and I needed to do something about it. I had to take a step back and reflect on what may be causing me to behave the way I do with her. I came up with a few theories. I think she is lazy, incapable, unprofessional or just not committed. The strategy I found that worked for me to help me not behave the way I was perceived was labelling. The next time she made a presentation at a team meeting, I had to stop myself from jumping to conclusions about why I think she’s slacking - I just had to ask myself what I thought her consistent poor performance may be because of? Perhaps she did not have time to prepare? Had she been unwell? Or is she is just not as skilled to do the job? Perhaps she needed more coaching and help? I always hold myself back from jumping to any conclusion based on past experiences. Labelling has helped me move from judgment to coaching, and I seek to understand before being understood. Now, we have a more constructive conversation. This behaviour change of mine has helped her get less defensive and more reflective as well. This way it gives us avenues to channel the conversation to listening, communicating and constructive feedback.
Kalpana Sinha is a Leadership and Organisation Professional. Her blog has reflections from her work experiences of over 20 years.