A lot of us are passive. We would rather be hiding behind a laptop coding/designing/writing than at a cocktail party, making friends and taking numbers. (I happen to like cocktail parties, but that’s me. I’m a freak like that.)
So when we must confront something negative, like letting a client down on a deadline, or telling a junior to get back to work on a task, we want to slither away and hide under a rock until… until what? The difficulty passes? It doesn’t pass. It just gets bigger and harder to avoid. That deadline keeps approaching, the junior keeps slipping behind. Eventually you’ll let them down because you couldn’t face them with the resolve they deserve.
We tend to think like little kids. We’ve spilled some milk, but we don’t want to tell Mom. She might get angry. But our stakes are higher. Where a child might get off with just a scolding, as adults we face possible job or client loss–or loss of face, which is worse than either.
It only feels safe and comfortable behind the monitor. But on the other side, real people are getting into real trouble, and it’s up to you to intervene in a timely fashion, even if it means having to break unpleasant news or be an unpleasant person.
The next time you have some unpleasant news to break, don’t just send a mealy-mouthed email at the end of the day. Go directly to the person, call them, look them in the eye, and honestly let them know what is going down. I can’t guarantee they’ll be happy you did, but you will garner more respect with honesty than with cowardice.