I didn’t want to hurt their feelings. So I said nothing

Which hurt their promotion chances instead.

I once had a person on my team who was great in many ways but had one particular habit that used to drive me and the rest of the team crazy.

I knew the right thing to do was to give this person feedback on what I was seeing and suggestions on how to fix it. It would have made all of our lives better.

But I didn’t.

I didn’t because I was worried that what I would tell them would hit them hard. Too hard.

They had a lot going on in their lives, and I didn’t want to be the one to push them over the edge. I was being empathetic…I thought.

Predictably, they kept doing the things that were annoying to the team, and it cost them a chance at a promotion.

Which I now realize was my fault, not theirs.

There is a term for this feedback avoidance. It’s called Ruinous Empathy, coined by Kim Scott in her book Radical Candor. I had information that would have helped this person but I was too worried to give it.

By the way, I ended up sharing the feedback with this person, and guess what? They didn’t fall apart – instead they took the feedback, made changes, and got promoted.

I hear about this challenge frequently when I am coaching leaders and I share this story as a reminder to not make the feedback about you! People are adults, can handle a lot, and deserve the chance to improve.

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