‘You Are Acting Out of Character’
Offering feedback when others are generally unaware of the negative impact they are having can be tricky. When a trusted colleague or leader unknowingly becomes more negative, dominant, distracted, status-conscious, or disengaged (among other issues), we face a unique feedback challenge. How do we offer this feedback without creating a strong and negative reaction? The next time you confront this dilemma, think about suggesting to your colleague that they are “acting out of character.”
Telling a colleague s/he is “acting out of character” projects a strong and positive affirmation. By suggesting our colleague’s normal way of engaging is both positive and effective, we offer an important compliment that serves as a contrast to the negative feedback soon to follow. Make a big deal about how they usually operate and why it is powerful.
Suggesting you have noticed recent examples, which are out of the ordinary, naturally raises the question: Is everything okay? Showing genuine concern is essential, as there must be a good reason they have changed from their common routine. By inquiring if there is something you don’t know driving this change, you express caring which is critical in offering feedback to a peer or leader.
Whatever the reply, the feedback is now sent: You’re doing something negative, so please go back to what you normally do. Good leaders use “out of character” feedback when others are unaware of how they have recently changed. Catching aberrations early on and offering feedback often saves the day for many others experiencing the same issue. Make it a part of your leadership character to suggest others are acting out of character when they are.