Author Topic: Polite way to shut down unwanted advice  (Read 2315 times)

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workingmum

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Polite way to shut down unwanted advice
« on: March 19, 2013, 04:33:05 AM »
So I've been in my current job for over a year now and have made some positive changes to the company, some of which have not been popular with employees, but very popular with customers ect. However (isn't there always a "however"??), I'm still getting comments from other employees on how I should be doing things. I am the General Manager of the company and have a long career in business management at various levels.

The latest example - lets say I was talking about advertising in a local magazine. One of the employees cannot stand the person that runs that local area and when I got off the phone he let loose about how he'd never do that if he was me because it was pointless because it's a small market and coming into slow season etc. What I wanted to say was "Well yes dear... that is why I'm going to advertise - a small market has potential to grow and any revenue in the slow season is better than none". Instead I bit my tongue because I was afraid of being patronising and sarcastic. This employee is a good 10 years younger than me but has worked with this company for the better part of 10 years. He is a technical person as opposed to a business person if that makes sense.

I'm not adverse to listening to advice when it's warranted, but when it's people commenting on conversations that they are not involved in (unfortunately we have an open plan office though I am trying very hard to change that), and the comments relate to an area in which I have a lot of experience and the commenter none, I get kind of annoyed.

As a one off, I could deal with this, but it's at least every other day! And not just from this one employee. All the employees have been given too much leeway and too much "stake" in the company in the past due to lax/non-existent management and that is what got the company to the point it is at now (not so great). All of these employees are technical people with no business management experience. I understand that they know the business itself better, but they have never been privy to the actual financials and management problems etc.

Sorry this is turned into an essay - and virtual bailey's fudge for anyone who has read all the way through - I could really use some polite, calm-inducing ways to shut down these comments!
"I sold my soul for freedom - it's lonely but it's sweet" -Melissa Etheridge

heyyoume

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Re: Polite way to shut down unwanted advice
« Reply #1 on: March 19, 2013, 04:56:53 AM »
If you are the general manager then I am assuming these employees are your direct reports or indirectly under your management?  In which case it is a relatively simple situation to manage - if managing employees is ever simple  :).  At your next one on one catch up with this employee or their line manager just note that while you appreciate input and constructive suggestions from employees both current tone and attitude are not appropriate and you will expect to see a 100% turn around.  State that your expectation is that employees will only criticize when they can offer a proactive solution to correct whatever it is that they are complaining about.  Then every time a comment like this is made you can simply say - "That is not a productive comment - do you have an alternative solution to offer?  No?  Then please focus on your own work".

workingmum

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Re: Polite way to shut down unwanted advice
« Reply #2 on: March 19, 2013, 05:01:49 AM »
Thanks - this is a good idea but would never fly in the culture we have. It's a very casual and relaxed kind of place and the last person that held a job close to my own was very ineffectual and basically did what other employees told her.

I have to work with these people every day, in the same office and often rely on them when I am out of the office, so to shut them down that way would make the working day very awkward if not downright unpleasant. I am currently trying to convince the owner that I need an office separated from the rest of the staff due to the often times confidential phone calls etc I have to make. I am hoping this will work, but in the meantime have to play nice.
"I sold my soul for freedom - it's lonely but it's sweet" -Melissa Etheridge

Venus193

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Re: Polite way to shut down unwanted advice
« Reply #3 on: March 19, 2013, 07:26:18 AM »
An office culture like this probably didn't happen overnight, so you can't change it overnight.  The "open plan" arrangement of the office is a huge contributing factor to your problem.

The next time someone makes an unsolicited suggestion, get them to back it up with facts and projections. Turn it into a project with a deadline.  Make it sound like an opportunity to show off how smart they are.  You may actually get some good ideas this way, but if not you will certainly be able to weed out slacker busybodies this way.

nyarlathotep

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Re: Polite way to shut down unwanted advice
« Reply #4 on: March 19, 2013, 07:52:38 AM »
It depends whether you want to engage them politely or shut them down completely. I like Venus' suggestion if you want to engage. If you want to shut down, this is the kind of phrasing I use for these situations:

"Hmm, that's a good point. I'll definitely give that some thought. Bean dip?"

(translation: That is terrible advice. I have absolutely no intention of considering it. Subject change time!)

[edit]: Disclaimer - I live in the UK. That tactic works over here because people tend to recognise it as a polite "shut up". YMMV in the US.

JenJay

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Re: Polite way to shut down unwanted advice
« Reply #5 on: March 19, 2013, 08:04:18 AM »
Would it work to treat their comments conversationally and reply as such?

Him: "Advertising during the slow season is a waste of money, especially in a small magazine!"
You: "I've had good luck with it in the past. You'd be surprised how many local citizens prefer the local publications. They may not even see an ad in a paper out of BiggerCity. The contract is for 6 months and I'll reevaluate when it's up."
Him: "The publisher is a jerk!"
You: "Really? Everyone was very professional with me. Hey, did you get the gadget for the gizmo?"

If the office culture is that everyone feels they should have a say then I'd let them, to a point, but it wouldn't affect my decisions. Then I'd redirect the conversation before it turned into an argument/lecture.



bopper

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Re: Polite way to shut down unwanted advice
« Reply #6 on: March 19, 2013, 09:47:29 AM »
I like what JenJay said.  You are acknowledging their input, but showing why your idea is good.
I would add some feedback into the loop so he would not feel the need to keep bringing it up.

Him: "Advertising during the slow season is a waste of money, especially in a small magazine!"
You: "I've had good luck with it in the past. You'd be surprised how many local citizens prefer the local publications. They may not even see an ad in a paper out of BiggerCity. The contract is for 6 months and I'll reevaluate when it's up. Also, the advertising rate is lower due to being slow season. I will show results at the June meeting. Say, how are you doing on the bean-dip project?"

Then if he says it again, you say:
"John, we have already discussed this and I have told you the decision.  There is no need to re-discuss this until we see the results of the campaign. Say, how are you doing on the bean-dip project?"

wolfie

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Re: Polite way to shut down unwanted advice
« Reply #7 on: March 19, 2013, 11:01:10 AM »
State that your expectation is that employees will only criticize when they can offer a proactive solution to correct whatever it is that they are complaining about.

I don't think I would put this into a policy - there are instances where a person should complain about something, even if they have no idea how to fix it. Having them decide not to speak up because that isn't their area of expertise could come to bite you later.

doodlemor

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Re: Polite way to shut down unwanted advice
« Reply #8 on: March 19, 2013, 11:39:35 AM »
Maybe you could say something like........

"That's interesting.  We'll just have to wait and see how this all turns out." 

Then offer some bean dip.

cicero

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Re: Polite way to shut down unwanted advice
« Reply #9 on: March 19, 2013, 11:57:52 AM »
i am not in the business world (rather non-profits that do include *some* income-generating projects) but there is business in every world so i am going to give you my two cents -

I've worked in a non profit where the manager held all cards close to her chest, where she encouraged gossip and back stabbing, and where she made our lives miserable. we didn't know what was going on because we weren't privy to information. most of us were educated (some more educated than her), smart, creative people who might have had good/better solutions to problems but were always shot down.

I am working now for a non profit where, while there are a lot of hush-hush things going on, there is also a great degree of transparency. and while I am not a manager, nor do i hold an MBA like my boss does, I am still encouraged to come up with ideas that might help generate income. I am given information about the finances and can sometimes come up with solutions. the difference is in the attitude of the managers.

so you said several times "they are not business people" but that doesn't mean that they are wrong. it also doesn't mean that *you* are wrong - but sometimes listening to the troops goes a very long way in fostering and building trust and loyalty.

i can tell you that i've been at my current job for about 3 years and my previous for 10 - and there is no question about which is a better place to work. it's not a quesiton of salary (i probably made more in my old job) but a question of respect

so just a thought but how about opening things up for discussion? not on a daily basis, not for every little thing, but in general to let people (even technical, non-business people) be more involved in what's going on


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CakeBeret

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Re: Polite way to shut down unwanted advice
« Reply #10 on: March 19, 2013, 12:55:22 PM »
I think there's a difference between people being gossipy about your decisions and people having valuable input.

Gossipy: I really don't like the owner of that magazine and besides, local customers suck.

Valuable: We rarely get any local business and it's the slow season, are you sure about advertising in the magazine?

I think that you should try to downplay the gossipy comments, something like "Ah. So what about your widget?" and acknowledge the valuable comments, i.e. "That's an interesting point of view, I'll keep that in mind. What's the status on your widget?"
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BeagleMommy

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Re: Polite way to shut down unwanted advice
« Reply #11 on: March 19, 2013, 04:12:11 PM »
"I'll give that all the consideration it deserves."

LazyDaisy

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Re: Polite way to shut down unwanted advice
« Reply #12 on: March 19, 2013, 04:51:36 PM »
CakeBeret's suggestion is good. I've been in offices where the new manager brought in to turn everything around started off by doing all of the things we'd done before without success and then was surprised that they had the same results. If employees are saying things like "We advertised with them three years ago and it never produced a larger customer base." that would be something to listen to. If they just don't like changes, any many people don't, reassurance is the best deflection. "I know that we haven't tried advertising with this magazine before so we won't know what the customer response will be until we've tried it. If you can think of other advertising resources, please email me a list and I'll be happy to give them consideration."
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LazyDaisy

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Re: Polite way to shut down unwanted advice
« Reply #13 on: March 19, 2013, 04:53:19 PM »
If the office culture is open to sarcasm and joking...place a "Suggestions Box" sign above your paper shredder  >:D and they'll hopefully get the hint.
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TootsNYC

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Re: Polite way to shut down unwanted advice
« Reply #14 on: March 19, 2013, 07:47:35 PM »
Thanks - this is a good idea but would never fly in the culture we have. It's a very casual and relaxed kind of place and the last person that held a job close to my own was very ineffectual and basically did what other employees told her.


I challenge yoru assumption. I think you *do* need to shut them down.

Maybe you do it more nicely, and maybe you create a one-on-one with this particular guy.
And maybe you say, "i know te person before me was a pushover for you, and basically all you guys just told her what to do. I have a lot of experience, and all this commenting on my job is getting in the way sometimes.
     "If you have something you want to tell me because you think it will help me do my job better, email me and we'll speak in private in the conference room. Do not comment on my work or crtiticize me in public anymore.
     "But if you stop and think about what you said to me, you'll realize that you didn't add anything of FACTUAL substance that I didn't already know. Mostly you vented about your personal opinion of somseone--that's not profession. And while we have a collegial atmosphere, that sort of input doesn't help.
    "And here is the standard I want you to apply. Is this your personal opinion? Or are there *facts* that I'm not aware of. I'm aware of the size of hat market and circulation. "

And then have a cut-and-paste response. "If you have factual information to give me, you need to bring it up to me in private."

Time to shut them down, to be honest. Sure, it'll be a shock to them. But they'll get over it.