How to Reduce Criticism

May 9th, 2011 by Douglas McEncroe · No Comments · Liderazgo

criticismFollowing the operations carried out this last week in Libya by the coalition and the avalanche of criticism they are receiving I started to think about just how easy it is to criticise. With respect to the coalition what we have heard are things like:

  • They shouldn’t have intervened.
  • They should have intervened sooner.
  • They should be clearer about their objectives.
  • They shouldn’t reveal their objectives.
  • They should be bombing Gadafi’s troupes eliminating their tanks and artillery.
  • They should only be applying the “No fly Zone” attacking the Libyan air force only when necessary.
  • They shouldn’t be bombing at all.
  • They should be negotiating with Gadafi directly.
  • With a madman like Gadafi they shouldn’t even think about direct conversations.

When I look at the variety of criticism it’s easy to see that no matter what they do they can’t win. I don’t usually feel sorry for politicians but in this case its hard no to feel certain sympathy for them as this is an enormously complex situation to manage. First of all they all want to avoid the same mistakes some of them made in Iraq. Then, they wanted to wait for the Security Council at the United Nations to give them their approval and this is always complicated and takes time. Then there’s the Arab League whose blessing they need, a blessing you can loose in a whisper. Also, there are the relations between the different members of the coalition itself and the public opinion of the countries they lead. And to finish, by attacking Gadafi they are supporting the rebels, who in reality they know very little about.

Who would want to be in their shoes, having to navigate through such complexity?

The press nearly always simplify complex situations to a point of complete absurdity, and also the majority of the population also look for simple explanations. It is however true that often politicians could put more effort and invest more time in trying to communicate the dilemmas and the paradoxes that they have to manage.

The same thing happens in companies

Time and time again I see the same dynamics at work in many companies. Poorly informed employees, who are very often not too understanding when it comes to Senior Management, react badly to a decision and subsequently actively take part in the spreading of rumours that have little to do with reality and only serve to increase anxiety, more still in these times we live in.
Having said that, it is often Senior Management that is largely to blame for the criticism against them, first of all because they don’t invest the necessary time and resources in communicating the complexity of the situations they have to deal with and also because the fail to involve their people in conversations whose objective could be to analyse and explore possible solutions to the complex problems that their company faces, al contraire, they often act secretively sometimes even appearing like some sect than a rational management team. No wonder they receive criticism: Here are some ideas to reduce the negativism:

Ideas to reduce the level of criticism

  • Question the validity of keeping some things secret.
  • Identify different components of a complex situation in order to better explain it to your people.
  • Invest time in communications, sometimes it requires a day of your time but later saves you months.
  • Think about the best channel for communicating the question at hand and then dedicate time in the transmission of the information.
  • Create bidirectional communication flows, not only from top to bottom but also from bottom up and also lateral flows across departments and business units.
  • Involve more people in the analysis of complex situations and in decision making through well designed and executed large-scale conversations.

There will always be criticisms and a lack of sympathy and understanding for Senior Management. You can however reduce the amount of criticism and the atmosphere of negativism that sometimes spreads like a cancer throughout an organization. It is possible to manage the information and the involvement of your people in a way that creates complicity, always a good foundation for increasing collaboration and achieving at the same time that the day to day is more pleasurable for everyone.

And you dear reader, what have you seen that works in reducing criticism?


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