I’ve made one of my employees cry. Does this make me an ogre?

Dear Aunty B,

I had to talk to one of my staff about a problem with her performance the other day and she started crying in my office. This always happens to me and it makes me feel uncomfortable but I’m not sure whether I should also feel bad about it.

It’s not really my fault if someone can’t handle criticism. I pride myself on my skills as a boss and mentor and have found that pointing out the problems in my employees’ work generally leads to an improvement even if they are distressed at the time. Nobody has complained about my management style or quit.

Have I got this right or wrong?




Dear Bewildered,

Hmmm. Of course my natural inclination is to say “bugger those softies” but I reckon you need to think about this one.

Now, is the crying a common thing from multiple staff members, or a select few?

If it’s from a select few, then I wouldn’t think you’ve got much to worry about. Some people tear up easily and are very sensitive to criticism. You might need to be a bit more tactful with these people in future discussions, but unfortunately criticism is always going to end in tears.

If you are regularly reducing your employees to weeping, then I would act on that. It’s not a good sign if your staff are constantly crying in your office and you may need to look at the way you handle difficult conversations.

I would bring in a trusted (and thick-skinned) colleague and take them through the way you deliver bad news and criticism. Get them to give you some feedback. Are there phrases that you use that could be adjusted? Do you have mannerisms that are threatening or overbearing.

Make adjustments where necessary, but by the same token don’t be too hard on yourself – no one likes bad news but sometimes bosses just have to give it.

Be Smart,

Your Aunty B

Email your questions, problems and issues to auntyb@smartcompany.com.au right now!


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