The death of the bollocking

FROM THE ARCHIVE: Time was when anyone who slacked off, back-pedalled, loafed around or otherwise failed to add value at work knew they were in for a good old-fashioned telling-off from the boss. It cleared the air and allowed everyone to get on with the task in hand. Nowadays, though, bureaucracy and the tyranny of balanced feedback rule. Rhymer Rigby reports.

by Rhymer Rigby

A friend who manages a medium-sized team recently told me about dealing with an underperforming underling. "I took her in and sat her down and told her that her performance wasn't what I expected from someone at her level." This, he added, was on the back of several less formal warnings that the quality of the work wasn't up to scratch.

What happened next? I asked. "Well," he sighed, "she didn't react well. She wouldn't look at me. Then she denied it. She started talking about how much work she had and how much pressure she was under - which is odd, because the rest of the team do more in less time." When this was pointed out to her, she told him he was always picking on her and burst into tears. "It was terrible - like dealing with a spoilt child."

Sadly, this manager's experience is not untypical. You take someone into your office to tell them that their work doesn't pass muster and instead of saying, "You're right, I've been slacking off and I need to improve", they react as though you've assassinated their character.

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