Giving difficult feedback is part and parcel of every manager’s job. Maybe someone isn’t pulling their weight in the team and it’s causing a bad atmosphere. Perhaps a project has gone badly off course and is in danger of derailing completely. Or maybe an employee has inadvertently upset a client, who is now threatening to take their business elsewhere.
Whatever the reason, it’s probably fair to say that pulling people up on some aspect of their performance or behaviour is a task most managers dread. They are unsure about how best to deliver the message, worried about how people will react and unsure of what they should do if the employee gets angry or upset.
But shoving issues under the carpet and hoping they will go away is not an option. If employees are not aware that their behaviour is causing an issue, they will continue to behave in exactly the same way. If people are going about a task the wrong way, they won’t know unless someone tells them. And if a team member is ‘coasting’ and continues to get away with it, resentment will start to build and there will be a knock-on effect on the rest of the team.
A useful way to approach giving difficult feedback is to shift your mind-set and look at it in a different light. If you regard feedback as an opportunity to motivate the team and help them grow, rather than a task to be dreaded, it becomes a valuable tool that can help you raise morale and performance. It’s always helpful to recognise that generally most people actively want to do a good job. In fact, I’ve never yet come across people who just go to work day in and day out, not caring about their job or the work they produce. Often, they are just unaware of their impact or gaps in their knowledge, and would welcome feedback that is delivered with a genuine intent to help them improve.
So what are the key steps managers need to take to ensure difficult feedback is given in a constructive manner that helps people move forward?