After being a public servant for several years I have witnessed different communication and interpersonal skills.
This is normal and expected in an environment where professionals have varied educational backgrounds and work positions. Unfortunately, one thing that I have seen repeated with various levels of damage is an employee’s inability to use tact. This is particularly damaging when individuals speak poorly about their supervisors’ (or their ideas) directly or indirectly in a group setting.
What is so bad about correcting or clarifying your supervisor in public? This question has been asked several times. For those who do not see the adverse implications of this. I will provide some insight below:
- Hierarchy – In a bureaucratic work environment, there is a strong emphasis placed on hierarchy. Usually, individuals at senior levels are usually given more respect and their opinion carry more “weight” than those in more junior levels. This implies that when your supervisor speaks, that he or she is speaking on behalf of your unit. It is important that this hierarchy is respected at all times.
- Lack of team skills – The Government of Canada places a strong emphasis on working in a team. By speaking against your supervisor, you illustrate that you are unable to work and respect the unspoken rules of a team and your team members.
- Lack of diplomacy – To be unable to know when to speak displays a clear lack of sensibility towards your supervisor (and his or her peers) and it also displays a lack of respect for them.
- Career progression – Your supervisor is the person that will sign off on your work, complete your yearly Employee Performance Agreement and Review agreements, approve all of your training and courses, assist you (or not) in developing your professional network, and provide reference for future job competitions and/or assignments.
- Judgement – Demeaning your supervisor in public shows your lack of judgement skills and your inability to understand the consequences and implications of your decisions.
Next time you are in a meeting or group setting with your supervisor and they say something that you are disagreement with keep your opinion or corrections to yourself. You can discuss your concerns with your supervisor after the meeting. Always choose your words carefully and be cognizant of your actions and the effect that they may have on others. Remember that your career and reputation are at stake.