I have a young direct. Very brilliant. She is green, but I put her on a team to develop a planning document. The plan has been adopted, and now we are implementing it, but with modifications (at my direction, and that of my boss). She challenged me on why I am not following the plan as written. (multiple times). She seems to view any compromise as a failing. Her last comment was "Don't you think the committee that helped developed the plan should know it's not being followed?" ... and that was to my boss. Got the picture? It's more than a little outrageous. Feedback should have been immediate, but I'm a rookie at this and I can't think of something concise that doesn't sound biting. Should I bite?


Mark's picture
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When you repeatedly challenge a course of action I have already endorsed, it comes across as professionally immature and uncompromising.

When you repeat to my boss comments I've already addressed, it comes across as perfectionism and uncompromising, neither of which are effective.

bug_girl's picture

depending on her type--you could soften it a little with congratulating her for feeling passionate ownership of the project--and then explain how the realities of day to day implementation work.  If she wants to go anywhere, she needs to learn to let go and compromise.

That's a more complex message, though, and the feedback would be more urgent to stop the behavior, I'd think.

Is she really new? As in, this is her first full time job?
I run into this sort of thing often with interns/new hires--they are used to being *perfect* for a grade, and once something is done, it's done and they are onto the next problem. Teaching them to measure success by finishing on time & on task, as well as setting measurable goals, is a tough transition. 

(and this is why our model of teaching, with emphasis on facts, not behavior, is all wrong in the US--but that's a whole other thread :)

430jan's picture

Your comments are very helpful. I think that I need Mark's approach to make her realize that I do not value her perfectionism as a stellar character trait (though it is in many fields of nursing...not here). I believe I can also relate that her inflexibility makes me wonder what she is doing to adjust her nursing services to clients in the home based on their needs. And maybe I can use your approach Bug_girl to start a discussion on coaching her with this once this swine flu mania is done. That could help her know I am interested in investing in her and believe that she can move forward to a place of comfort with compromise.I think that she will be fine, just needs some steering. 

Thank you for your response.

Mark's picture
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Bug_Girl's suggestion has an air of sandwich to it.  I wouldn't do that... particularly for less experienced professionals, mixed messages are poor communication tactics that produce random results.

Be very careful of "softening" with words.  It will confuse.

And perfectionism is NOT behavior.  If she hears you say perfectionist, she'll be smart enough to distance herself from it.

bug_girl's picture

Yes, Feedback first, and separate. The stuff I mentioned is a longer, more complex conversation.

And yes, don't talk about perfectionism :)
You can understand the motivation--but you still have to focus on her behavior, and talk about how you measure goals and success in your workplace. In other words, explain your grading system!

You have to get her to get beyond "I did it right! Why do you want to change the grade now that I'm done?"
"I'm not getting an A? But...I always get an A!"

I wouldn't phrase it in that way, of course :p

If she's not a new new employee (recent student), well...probably other things at work, and disregard my comments.


ashdenver's picture

Q: Her last comment was "Don't you think the committee that helped developed the plan should know it's not being followed?"

A: Yes, they should and now you know.

(Sorry, in a bit of a snarky mood right now.)