Career Change: Tough Love

Have you been thrust into a job search.  Laid off, outsourced, fired, position eliminated, forced into early retirement…no matter the reason, being forced into a job search is difficult on many fronts.  Last week, I offered ideas on processing the new paradigm, embracing the change, and living with the uncertainty.  Today I offer thoughts on the need for tough love when dealing with a career change.

A couple of summers ago, I helped coach my daughter’s softball team.  It was a eight-year-old and under league where everyone played every inning, no scores were kept, coaches pitched, and there were run limits per inning.  It was a great learning environment without all the pressures of wins and losses, strikeouts, playing only the best players, etc. – and at the end of the year everyone received trophies.

This type of universal positive recognition has crept its way into many employee performance reviews. While positive when used to develop children’s love of a sport, it has the negative effect when implemented in a work setting.  No one wants to deliver tough news that one’s performance has been lacking in certain areas, so instead we find and focus on areas of praise and ignore the deficiencies.  At one management training session, a trainer even suggested using a “Compliment Sandwich” when delivering bad news – sandwich the tough news between two compliments  to ensure the person does not feel bad.  The universal recognition and compliment sandwiches have left many of us with a false sense of our strengths and ignorant of our weaknesses.

In order to have a realistic view of ourselves, it is important that we seek out individuals who will provide some tough love.  Find individuals you know who are comfortable being very honest in their assessments and opinions of situations.  Ask them to lunch, share your story and ask for their honest feedback of your situation.  The message is going to be hard to hear, so to prep yourself:

1) Timing: Do not ask for a tough love conversation the day after you get laid off – your emotions are too raw and charged for you to hear an honest assessment of your situation.  Wait until you have had time to process and have begun to embrace this opportunity for change.

2) Safe Place: Choose a neutral venue for your conversation – being on one person’s turf (ex: friend’s office, your apartment) can inadvertently put the other individual on the defensive.  Additionally, when asking for a feedback meeting and at the beginning of the actual meeting, state that you want and need to hear the person’s honest opinion and that you promise not to hold any grudges.  Remember, your friend has nothing to gain from this conversation, but could lose a valued friendship – respect the risk he/she is taking.

3) Write It Down: When receiving feedback, we often hear only what we want to – the good, the pieces we had already assumed to be true, or the parts that are of most interest to us.  To make matters worse, time will only decrease one’s ability to accurately remember what was communicated.  So, write down the feedback that you receive.  Ask clarifying questions to ensure you understand what your friend is trying to say.  The act of writing down the feedback helps take some of the emotion out of the message and allows you to reflect later on when you may be more open to hearing the message.

Last summer I met with a friend and we were discussing our jobs.  After sharing my story he offered an insight – a tough one to hear but one that cut right to the heart of the matter that I was struggling with. His insight allowed me to view my situation through a new perspective and ask if this personal struggle was one that I could overcome, or wanted to try to overcome for that matter.

Tough love is difficult to hear and difficult to deliver.  If you have someone who you trust to provide honest feedback and you are open to hearing it, take advantage of this gift of a relationship.


About Kevin Monahan

I have 10+ years experience in coaching clients in their career management and career change efforts. Personal career consulting services combined with employer outreach to help find opportunities for both constituents.
This entry was posted in Career Management, Communications, Job Search, Layoff, Mentor, rejection and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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