One of the main concerns managers have is about giving negative feedback. It’s much easier to give good news, although whether that actually happens enough is another story. But back to our bad news, what is it about telling the truth that some of us find so difficult? Well it varies from person to person, some people want to be liked, and others worry about hurting someone’s feelings. Some just don’t like conflict while others just struggle with the emotional side of it. A training course I attended once taught that we should “use the crap sandwich,” ie wrap the difficult news up in the middle some ‘nice’ compliments. What about your responsibility as a manager, what about integrity? Sometimes managers stew over having to give bad news but then it leaks out inappropriately. So how do we deliver the difficult message in a way that works for all of us?
Well it begins with intent. If your intent is to hurt them, show them who’s boss or belittle them then it probably won’t work whatever approach you take. However if your intent is to make them aware of the issue, show support and help them resolve the issue, then you’re on the right footing.
Secondly you need to strip all of the emotion out of the situation, starting with your own emotion. This could be worrying over giving the message or even, at the other extreme, annoyance over poor performance. It needs to be factual, and even. Explain, factually what the issue is, whether it is lateness, poor performance, even a personal hygiene problem. Describe the issue, explain the impact and highlight the consequence. For example: “You have been very dominant in meetings lately, the impact is that the rest of the team have stopped contributing and the consequence is that the others don’t want to work with you.” The issue, the impact and the consequence.
Then over to them, ask what their thoughts are and listen. No not pretend listen but really listen so you understand their views. Then, and only then, you can begin to find a resolution, actions they should take to prevent it happening anymore and the support you can give them to help. This approach takes all the sting out of it, keeps it factual, demonstrates that you want to help and creates a plan to resolve it.
Photo credit: Purple Thistle by tdlucas5000