When my mother died 9 years ago, it fell to me to do her Eulogy.  I spoke about her and her love and devotion to our family as well as her career.  My mother did well: she was promoted to management in spite of the fact that she wa


Use the System to Convert Criticism to Feedback (06/15/2021)


A few years ago Greg Smith resigned from Goldman Sachs by way of an op-ed piece in the New York Times.  He resigned and told - arguably - the world what he thought about his former employer.  The gist of Mr. Smith's article was that Goldman had lost its way in terms of valuing its many clients.  Goldman Sachs on the other hand and predictably, positioned Mr. Smith as a disgruntled employee and stated that their core values, supported by internal customer and employee satisfaction data stood in contrast to his opinions.  So is this a "burn your bridges" or a "truth will set you free" moment?  You can read what you like and come out on one side or the other.  I prefer to explore all sides of these situations so that I can learn from them.  And, there is something to learn from each side in this particular one. 
It's good, I think, to be open and honest with the chain of command and be vocal about your concerns early and often.  If you care enough about your customers it's good to work for change from within and provide them with a customer service framework that you can be proud of.  Conversely, it is just as good to regard any criticism as feedback.  Even if it feels like unjust criticism, take it seriously and learn from it.  
The key takeaways on the "Smith Side" are these:
  • When you see behavior in the workplace that you believe conflicts with your and your firm's core values address it.  A good way to do that is through personal example. Treat your customers with the respect that they deserve and others will be influenced by your positive behavior. At the very least you will stay true to your beliefs.  
  • Discuss your concerns at team meetings in a nonjudgmental way.  Share a success story that has a valued customer theme to get your point across.  
  • Generally it's not good to burn your bridges.  Be open and honest about why you are leaving a firm and any subsequent action you will be taking if you can do that safely.
On the other hand, the key takeaways on the "Goldman Sachs Side" are these:
  • The disgruntled employee routine is old.  Certainly, it's fair to point out your side of the story and present your proof to make the case.  However, don't miss an opportunity to reaffirm your commitment to your customers and demonstrate that you value them above all.
  • Convert criticism to feedback and take action.  Reinforce your company's  core values and your employee expectations with your team.  
  • Use an occasion like this to encourage your employees to reach out and reconnect with their customers.  Help them develop a message that is consistent and will reinforce your brand with your clients - big and small.
  • Oh...and don't let your employees discuss a salary of $500K or so as if it is small potatoes.  True or not It's infuriating, 
I understand that my suggestions are easier said than done.  It's never easy to fix an uncomfortable workplace.  As corporate citizens, however, we have an obligation to try to use internal business processes to work through issues and make the case for our customers. Conversely, as leaders, we should know our teams and recognize when behavior has passed the point of acceptability or when one or more of the team seems uncomfortable.  Always convert criticism to feedback and explore opportunities to enhance your style, improve workplace conduct or team performance. I know it's unlikely that many of us will have to deal with a PR disaster of this magnitude but when faced with adversity, we are all capable of taking one step forward to improve a bad situation and go from there.
I use business coaching and mentoring to help you recognize concerns and address them before they become contentious.  Contact Beth if you'd like to discuss how I can help.   
Here's wishing you and yours a wonderful start to the summer and the rest and relaxation this season always brings.  


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