Three Questions to Ask Yourself Before Yelling

Kaser recently had a bad production day. 

We’d been firing on all cylinders for weeks, churning out great work in record time through our busiest season. Then on a single day, we fell behind on a handful of projects. Customers weren’t happy, and neither was I. I needed someone to blame.

I launched an investigation, and realized fairly quickly that it was all my fault. I had created a bottleneck in the schedule. Work came to a standstill because of me. 

Managers, though bad production days are (hopefully) rare, they tend to occupy a lot of our memory. We focus on them, because we have to – we’re responsible. And while our frustration is valid, our need to assign blame can get us into trouble. 

So before you yell, ask yourself these three questions.

Are you taking a broad view?

Don’t lose perspective. Is your team incompetent, or are they high-performing people who had one low-performance day? If you don’t normally spend your evening commute fuming about how the workday went, this could simply be an isolated incident – and you should treat it as such. Address the issue constructively, and find a way to maintain your optimism.

Are you making assumptions about motives?

Smart, well-intentioned people are very capable of making spectacular mistakes. They may have even had good reasons for doing so. Rather than ascribing every problem to incompetence, take the time to ask what thought processes led to this place. You may learn something. 

Did you communicate? 

Yes, I create daily schedules, work orders, and written protocols, and yes, my team is trained, competent, and largely autonomous –  but I still visit the shop floor at least three times a day. There’s no other way for me to be fully in the loop, and fully supportive. If I wait until the end of the day to find out that everything’s gone wrong since 6 AM, I have no one to blame but myself. 

You’ve hired trustworthy people, so trust them. Assume they have good intentions. Seek out their feedback. Listen before you speak. And most of all, be willing to entertain the possibility that you had a role to play in what went wrong.

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