What To Do When Your Decision Causes Upset Employees

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    It can be very uncomfortable when you’re faced with an upset employee.  You make your decisions intentionally and with great thought, so when someone questions them, it can be unnerving – especially when the employee is standing in front of you or blasting off emotionally charged emails.  Maybe they feel excluded.  Or perhaps they didn’t get what they wanted.  Now you’re wondering…did I make the right call?

    There will be many times in your career where you will be questioned, disagreed with or challenged.  It’s normal.  The key is to keep the emotion out of your reaction and take a rational approach to the situation. 

    (1)   Don’t have conversations with upset employees via email.  Engage with them in person or at least by phone or skype if logistics prevent otherwise.

    (2)   Remind yourself “It’s not personal.”  Business decisions are just that…business.  If someone disagrees with you, it does not mean it’s about you.  Most likely it’s about the issue at hand.

    (3)   Consider and explore their perspective.  This is the corollary to (2).  It may feel personal to them, so it’s worth considering what may be driving the emotion.  Is their upset due to a rational business difference of opinion or are they coming from an emotional perspective?

    (4)   Remind yourself of why you made the decision.  Is it still valid or have you been given new information?

    (5)   Decide what needs to be disclosed…and what doesn’t.  The person in front of you doesn’t need to know every thought you had when making the decision, but if there is relevant feedback, provide that to them.  If it’s a sensitive issue about their work, choose the appropriate time and setting (which may not be at that very moment.)

    (6)   Remedy the situation or stand firm.  You don’t have to please everyone.  If your decision needs to stand, and the person is unhappy, so be it.  Express appreciation for them bringing the subject to you for discussion.  Allow them time to express their views, then calmly affirm your decision.  If you know the answer, don’t delay to avoid the discomfort.  Move through it so the individual can leave the discussion with a clear understanding of whether the decision is final or not.  Don’t promise to reconsider if you know you’re not going to do so. 

    Occasionally it’s worth quietly reconsidering your decisions.  But hold your second thoughts to yourself, consider then let it go.  Don’t ruminate.  

    A firm decision, even if not perfect, is a better leadership action than waffling.