When the pervading way of things becomes a comfort zone, the status quo, a situation can be at once a very happy but also a risky or dangerous place.
The word often evoked here is complacency. We ‘fiddle while Rome burns all around us”.
A business may be growing and yet it is this very growth which can render us blind and deaf to the small but growing number of customer complaints about our product or service. As our business grows, we feel good, confide t, vindicated in the risk we took investing our money it – the last thing we need to hear is anything which might spoil or dilute the high we are on. Anything that challenges the status quo is deemed to be a “spoiling tactic”
So, how do you avoid being shot as the messenger of uncomfortable news? How do you tell a board of directors or an individual that there are important things to be noticed outside of their current range of vision.
Well, sometimes, at least in the short term, you can’t avoid it. Creating discomfort may, in a lot of circumstances, leave you labelled at a misery maker. And you’ll have to decide whether you are up to it, or want to do it. But there are a few tips to reduce that risk.
Let the facts speak for themselves.
Ensure you have as much objective evidence as possible and focus the attention of the person or group on the evidence not you. deliver it with calm clarity and, as soon as attempts are made to blame you for being a spoiler of the “good mood”, stay calm and restate the facts.
Depersonalize where possible
Deliver the message anonymously. Anonymous “tip offs” are often vital to the police in solving crimes and they can work equally as well with the delivery of reality checks to comfort zone prisoners.
Go with allies
Do not deliver the message alone. Form a small coalition of trusted influencers, call a meeting and have the message delivered by, not just you, but the coalition. This can prevent the charge of spoiling being levelled at just one person – it is a lot harder to dismiss a grow than a single soul!
Make the news an “open offer”
Without being specific, let the other know that you have something you think will make them uncomfortable, but that it is well intentioned, and simply leave it as an offer, that if they want to hear it, they need to agree not to shoot you as messenger, and simply be open to the news, even if it seems or feels uncomfortable.
Offer yourself the specific role of ‘Devil’s Advocate’
Be explicit that you believe that, even in good, comfortable times, the devil’s advocacy role is a healthy role for a person or a group. Without someone with good intentions to ask the sometimes uncomfortable questions, there’s a danger of complacency setting in. This makes common sense to most people. When you then deliver the discomforting news it is in a clearly agreed role as challenger to the status quo.
You may still get blamed as a spoiler, but these tips can reduce the risk.