Feedback conversations are the worst. Most managers hate having them and, in fact, actively avoid them. Got an employee with a bad attitude? Got a staff member who never shows up on time? Got someone in the office that drives you nuts with their lack of professionalism?
You can allow these behaviors to aggravate you to the brink of your sanity or you can talk to them about it. It’s your choice.
If you choose to talk to them about it, here is my 6-step process that will ensure success.
Step #1 – Schedule up
Tell your report that you need to schedule a feedback conversation with them. And then book it for later that day or the next. This puts your employee on guard. And that is a good thing in terms of changing behavior for the long-term.
Step #2 – State the purpose of meeting
At the start of the meeting, tell your report that this impromptu feedback meeting was warranted because you noticed something about their behavior that was problematic. This ensures that your employee knows 1) this is a special event designed specifically for them, and 2) this talk is going to require them to change a behavior directly after the conversation ends.
Step #3 – Describe the problematic behavior
Here you can list the ways that your report is violating company rules or norms. You can start broadly, but you need to punctuate with concrete examples.
- You have been coming in to work late – yesterday you didn’t get here until 9:15.
- You are late to meetings – today you came into the weekly staff meeting after I had begun to speak.
- You have not been dressing in accordance with our dress code – we require shoulders to be covered and all summer you have worn sleeveless blouses.
- You are complaining about the company with other staff members – today XYZ told me that that you were gossiping in their office about our COO.
- Your social media posts are inappropriate – last night you posted a note referencing how drunk you and your friends were.
- You are condescending to your coworkers – last month you told everyone what they should do for the XYZ project and gave out timelines, but you did not have the authority to do so.
- You are putting too many things on my desk – yesterday you told me that you couldn’t complete xyz task for xyz reason, but your job is to find ways to handle the tasks I assign you.
- You complain too much about not having enough training – you asked for training on the new software, but all other employees were able to figure it out on their own.
- You seem to leverage certain policies to your personal advantage – every day you leave work at 5pm no matter what you have left to do.
Step #4 – Explain why the behavior is a problem
Here you can articulate why it is a problem to you, to the company, or, ideally, both. You should start by saying “The reason this behavior is problematic is because…”
- Other employees get here on time and they have less respect for you because you are late. I have less respect for you because you are late. It makes us feel as though you care less than the rest of us. Or that you are not willing to work as hard as the rest of us. So you are perceived as not being a good team member. And when you are late to meetings, and you enter while I am speaking, I am so distracted by the interruption I loose track of what I was saying. Plus, I then get angry for all the reasons I just described, and it really throws me off.
- You are a representative of this department and of this company. What you say in public and how you act reflects on this organization. If you do not live up to XYZ values while you are in the community, then the community will think negatively of our company. We value the appearance of professionalism, hard work, and intelligence. This problematic behavior that I am talking about undermines that value.
- By telling me that you are not able to complete tasks, or by asking for more training when you get assignments, or by leaving as soon as the clock hits 5:00pm, you are communicating to me that you do not want to be here and that you are not capable of handling the job duties assigned to you. This makes me consider you a candidate for demotion as well as makes me wonder whether you wouldn’t be happier somewhere else. And, because no one else engages in this behavior, it seems to be a problem with your work ethic, which directly impacts the moral of this department.
Step #5 – Make the big ASK
This is when you ask for a change in behavior and suggest the consequences for not changing. You should say something along the lines of, “I need to ask that you change this behavior directly after this meeting ends. And if it does not change we will talk about it again in your performance review this year.”
Step # 6 – Stop talking. Period. Not another word.
Upon hearing such news employees may become upset. They can fire back with excuses and reasons, raise their voices, cast blame, cry, storm out… you name it. So if you feel it appropriate you can offer a “face-saver”at this point that redirects their negative energy.
Below are examples of face-saving statements.
- This is a hard conversation for me to have. And I know it is hard for you. But I think things will be better because we talked about it.
- I believe in you. This company believes in you. This is just one behavior holding us all back.
- This is the last thing that I want to talk to you about. But it is my job – as Director – to have this conversation.
- The reason I held this feedback meeting with you is because I care about your performance and whether you like working here.
- To help you master this change in behavior we would like to offer to you support from a career-coach/send you to management training/pay your registration at xyz conference.
- I know you are upset. And I was too knowing that we would have this talk. It sounds like we both want to move on and to do so quickly. So let’s do that starting now.
Repeat Step # 6 – Stop talking. Period. Not another word.
At this point all you need to do is shut up. If your report continues to talk you can say “Thank you for coming in.” Then stand up. They should get the hint.
In the days and weeks that follow you should follow up. I recommend using brief 1 minute encounters as soon as the problematic behavior appears again or as soon as improved behavior is witnessed. If the behavior is repeated, you should say, “See, this behavior is what what I am talking about…” If the behavior begins to improve, you should say, “Wow, thank you for doing xyz. That is exactly what I was hoping for…”
Giving feedback is not easy. It takes practice. If this is hard for you, think of these tough conversations as good practice. The more practice you get, the better you will be. You can also think of these conversations as your obligation as a managing director to do what is needed to help your employees perform well. In the worst case scenario, these conversations are part of the termination process. Should your coaching not work and the employee need release from the company, you will be one step farther along in that procedure.
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Dr. Ganem is founder and director of Lion Leadership, a consulting organization that helps private and non-profit companies with leadership and managerial training, strategic planning, and organizational effectiveness. She is primary writer for the ROAR blog at www.ImTheLion.com where readers gain perspective on themselves, their organizations, and how to reach their potential at work.