Two epidemics kill cultures: end-runs and unresolved complaining. These epidemics have a powerful cure in the form of a simple question.
An end-run happens when an employee goes around a manager to complain or get a better/different answer to his or her problem. At the conclusion of the end-run, if you don’t ask the question, you’re going to start the spread of a plague in your organization.
The recipient/participant of the end-run can listen and coach, but never make a decision. When you decide, you cut the manager in question off at the knees and leave him or her powerless to do the job he or she is there to do. Listen carefully, and at the end of the conversation, ask the question.
Unproductive complaining is when someone is not sharing an issue to solve it, but is instead politicking, backstabbing, and/or positioning. Every organization seems to have one person that everyone complains to. That person becomes the “unsaid complaint department.”
When you receive unproductive complaining, you’re being exposed to a poison. If you don’t ask the question at the end of the complaining, you leave that poison in your organization to grow and spread. At the conclusion of the complaint, ask the question, and you stop it in its tracks.
So, what’s the question that you need to ask at the end of an end-run, or after unproductive complaining? It’s simply this:
“Are you going to tell ’em, or am I going to tell ’em? Because one of us needs to tell ’em.”
I promise you that this works. This question will wipe out end-runs and unproductive complaining organization-wide within a month.
Take a moment and write this question down on a piece of paper. Keep it on your desk for the next time someone comes to you with an end-run or an unproductive complaint. You’ll see exactly what I mean.