Photo courtesy of Meghan Duthu

Irreconcilable Differences or Constructive Criticism: What you can do

When you’re in a leadership position, sometimes it can be hard to listen to other people within your organization, especially non-executives. This is often because executives have more experience and knowledge in managing teams and projects than non-executives, but many times it involves a little bit of ego. Senior Executives often have a hard time being questioned by people in their organization, and it can be hard to hear the valuable aspects of any criticism.

However, if your employees, co-managers, or other executives are continually questioning your choices, authority, or plans, you might begin to wonder if it’s constructive criticism, or if they are intentionally trying to undermine you. If you find yourself in this situation, ask yourself:

And then:

Constructive Criticism

If you’ve answered “Yes” to the first three questions on this list, the odds are that your employee, co-manager, or co-executive is trying to offer constructive criticism or eke out more details on your plans or directions. You should take this as an opportunity for personal growth and try to respond to their questions or concerns.

You can also address your concerns about how they are voicing their opinions, and ask that they send you an email or plan a one-on-one meeting to better respond to their concerns. But mostly, you have to learn how to withstand a little bit of criticism, and also respect the fact that sometimes you don’t know everything.

Intentionally Undermining

If you’ve answered “Yes” to the last three questions, you might be experiencing “irreconcilable differences” with this particular person (or persons). Likely, they use negative language or get upset when talking about your directives, ideas, or goals, and spend time talking to other employees about how he or she feels.

In these situations, you can do your best to address his or her concerns in front of your entire team so that those seeds of discontent do not grow elsewhere. But the most important aspect of a scenario involving “irreconcilable differences” is how you move forward with this individual as part of your team.

While some leaders and executives prefer to ignore this person and work with them as much as possible, sometimes the person will force you into making a decision. For most executives dealing with “repeat underminers,” reactions include:

Most executives don’t particularly enjoy talking about either option, but it’s important for people who are not on your level to know where you stand and that continued grumbling won’t work.

Know the Difference

As a leader and an executive within your company, it’s your job to listen to the people who are working with you directly. It’s also important to keep your ego in check and to let people express their concerns with your ideas — you are not going to have a perfect record. Your employees, co-managers, and other executives are there to improve the company, as well, so you want them on your team.

For those people who have expressed their wishes to move in different directions and really are not willing to help in the solution, it may be time to let them go.

Carl is a business psychologist and leadership development expert who focuses on the development of high performance leaders.