As a manager, which is better, to be diplomatic or to be direct?
A trick question!
There is no one answer. The answer is it depends. It depends on the situation, on the employee and how they like to interact.
As managers, the challenge is to not do what we prefer, but what our employees want.
Some of our employees want us to be diplomatic in our approach. Some of our employees want us to be direct.
To those of us who prefer to be diplomatic in our approach, it will be very uncomfortable for us to be direct, because we don’t want to appear rude. But in fact, when you aren’t being direct to someone who wants you to be direct, you are being rude!
Same goes the other way.
For those of us who prefer to be direct in our approach, it will appear very uncomfortable for us to be diplomatic. But if you remain direct to someone who prefers you being diplomatic, they will shut down.
Two examples of how this could be uncomfortable.
You have a problem.
The diplomatic person would like to talk to the direct person by stating “hello, how’s it going? I want to thank you for the work you do. Many things are going well. Now, there is one thing I’d like to talk to you about.”
You’ve already lost this individual! They want you to get to the point!
What you should say: “We have a problem. I see either option A, B, or C as the solution. Which do you like or do you have one of your own?”
Just get to the point! Be direct.
The opposite is true as well.
If you like to be direct, and someone who likes someone to diplomatic gives you a report that is all wrong, your tendency would be to say “this is wrong, fix it.”
This could traumatize this person!
What they want to hear: “I appreciate the work you put into this report. You spent a lot of time on it. Now what I need is……”
They will be more accepting to do the next thing.
When we adjust our diplomatic and direct skills with employees based on their preference rather than our comfort level:
- Listening to each other will improve
- There will be less conflict
- You are more likely to get the outcome you desire
There is no guarantee getting out of your comfort zone to match your employees will get you your desired results. However, your managerial effectiveness is likely to increase when you do adjust your style to let our employee’s desires supersede our comfort.