Feedback is a crucial agent for change. Managers and supervisors are in charge of helping people see how to change. Expectations need to be clearly outlined. Feedback needs to be useful, supporting effective behavior or redirecting unsuccessful performance.
What’s the Problem
Should a violation be addressed? What is the right issue? The best advice I’ve heard was, “If you cannot ignore, forgive, and forget; you need to go and talk to the person. If you cannot go and talk to the person; you need to ignore, forgive, and forget.”
Deciding if you need to confront someone? Are they costing you or the company time or money? Is their behavior impacting customer perception? The issue must be addressed.
Guilt is a poor motivator. Good feedback is constructive. It needs to have value, and build up. If you can’t think of a constructive purpose for giving feedback, don’t give it.
Provide positive and negative feedback. If you only give one, it won’t carry weight. Be aware of feedback overload. One or two points at a time is all we can handle.
If I Ignore It, Will it go Away?
Sorry, mom. (See quote above.) If you can’t let it go, your emotions will sneak out in other ways. If you don’t talk it out, you’ll act it out.
You’ve no doubt observed this passive aggressive behavior:
I can’t believe what Joe did to me today! You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to wait until the last possible minute, just before the deadline to submit my part of this project. That’ll teach him!
Even if we control our actions, our body language will likely betray our internal hostility or resentment.
Do we downplay the seriousness of bad behavior because we’re afraid of confrontation? Do we tell ourselves that it isn’t really that bad? Do we tell ourselves we aren’t qualified to have these conversations?
Don’t confuse difficulty with whether you should deal with it. It might not be as bad as you think!
According to a study by VitalSmarths, 93% of people daily work with a person they find hard to work with. Nobody holds an accountability conversation because other employees believe it is too dangerous.
Ignore a problem too long and it festers. It becomes an emotional or even physical outburst. No one, regardless of their poor behavior, deserves our emotional, verbal, or physical abuse.
What to Say
Start with the content. Focus on the description. Don’t evaluate whether something is right or wrong, good or bad. Describe only behaviors that can be observed by the five senses. The four part assertion message reminds us that we cannot assume motive or intent of another person. Include your feelings or reactions.
|Say This||Not That|
|Twice this week you came in late.||You’re lazy and don’t care about your job.|
|You were very through in providing instructions on how to file that paperwork.||Your communication skills are good.|
|When that customer asked for a roll away bed, you rolled your eyes.||You don’t care about our guests.|
If it Happens Again
We’ve had an accountability conversation and made an agreement on a set of expectations. If it happens again, we need to address it differently.
The second time, we talk about a pattern of behavior. The issue now is that they did not live up to their promise.
The third time is about the relationship. This conversation is difficult to have. Ask yourself what you really want out of the relationship. Prepare accordingly.
If you find yourself coming back to the same problem again and again, chances are you’re not addressing the right issue. Instead of talking about what’s easy, convenient, or obvious address the content, the pattern and the relationship of an issue.
State the constructive purpose, what you’d like to address, and why it’s important. Describe the behavior. State something tangible: when, where, who was involved, what the results were. Don’t speak for others. Don’t use “you” statements or speak in definitives (always or never). Describe your reactions and consequences.
Give the person an opportunity to respond. Don’t interrupt. Make eye contact. It should be clear you’re waiting for a reply. Open ended questions ensure that you will get more info in reply.
Suggestions should be specific and feasible. Don’t allow too much time after your evaluation. Show that you’ve moved on by offering solutions.
Offer support and confidence in their ability to improve. Summarize to improve understanding.
Department Of Labor Workplace Violence Program alludes to the importance in communication and a healthy workplace to prevent workplace violence. Note the following from the DOL:
The best prevention strategy is to maintain an environment which minimizes negative feelings, such as isolation, resentment, and hostility among employees. Although no workplace can be perceived as perfect by every employee, there are several steps that management can take to help create a professional, healthy, and caring work environment. These include, but are not necessarily limited to:
- promoting sincere, open, and timely communication among managers, employees, and union representatives;
- offering opportunities for professional development;
- fostering a family-friendly work environment;
- maintaining mechanisms for complaints and concerns and allowing them to be expressed in a non-judgmental forum that includes timely feedback to the initiator;
- promoting “quality of life” issues such as facilities and job satisfaction; and
- maintaining impartial and consistent discipline for employees who exhibit improper conduct and poor performance.
Being aware of performance and/or conduct problems which may be warning signs of potential trouble is good prevention strategy. These signs may show up in perpetrators of violence, those who are victims, and those involved in domestic violence. Although it is possible that only one of these indicators will occur, it is more likely that a pattern will occur or that they will represent a change from normal behavior. Remember that the presence of any of these characteristics does not necessarily mean a violent act will occur. They may be indicators of another type of problem such as being ill, depressed, bereaved, etc. Some examples of performance and/or conduct indicators are listed below (listing is not intended to be all inclusive):
- attendance problems – excessive sick leave, excessive tardiness, leaving work early, improbable excuses for absences;
- adverse impact on supervisor’s time – supervisor spends an inordinate amount of time coaching and/or counseling employee about personal problems, re-doing the employee’s work, dealing with co-worker concerns, etc.;
- decreased productivity – making excessive mistakes, poor judgment, missed deadlines, wasting work time and materials;
- inconsistent work patterns – alternating periods of high and low productivity and quality of work, inappropriate reactions, overreaction to criticism, and mood swings;
- concentration problems – easily distracted and often has trouble recalling instructions, project details, and deadline requirements;
- safety issues – more accident prone, disregard for personal safety as well as equipment and machinery safety, needless risks;
- poor health and hygiene – marked changes in personal grooming habits;
- unusual/changed behavior – inappropriate comments, threats, throwing objects;
- evidence of possible drug or alcohol use/abuse;
- evidence of serious stress in the employee’s personal life – crying, excessive phone calls, recent separation;
- continual excuses/blame – inability to accept responsibility for even the most inconsequential errors; and/or
- unshakable depression – low energy, little enthusiasm, despair.