My challenge is that I‘ve done an audit on my staff’s work performance and not all of them are on par. How do I address the matter in an urgent and serious manner but also still keep the human being at the back of the desk in consideration? I am sure this will be one of the easier questions 😉
As someone who’s been on both the giving and receiving end of these kinds of conversations, it just plain sucks for everyone involved. As with any skill, giving negative feedback well requires practice. The problem is that most people – my Midwestern self included – avoid it at all costs. What I didn’t realize at the beginning of my career is that, when handled well, giving honest and direct feedback is a kindness.
When handled well, giving honest and direct feedback is a kindness.
A concept we refer to a lot at Doist is radical candor – the idea that good bosses need to both care personally and challenge directly. From the sound of your question, it seems like you’re doing pretty well in the “care personally” department. Now you just need to reframe giving direct feedback as part of caring about your employees. You’re doing them a disservice by staying silent and letting the problems fester until you ultimately have to let them go.
As for how to actually approach the conversation, don’t beat around the bush. Be direct. If you sugarcoat performance problems, people are less likely to hear your feedback.
Set a meeting and come ready to listen. You may not have the full context of what’s leading to the poor performance – extenuating circumstances you’re not aware of, or they’re just really feeling the weight of a global pandemic. Maybe there are things you could be doing better to support this person in their job. Approach it from a place of curiosity, not blame: of “Hey, I’m noticing this problem, and I want to figure out a solution together.” Don’t give an ultimatum – improve performance or else. Work together to find a path forward.
People can’t improve their performance without feedback they can act on. Be as specific as possible. Provide concrete examples of previous poor performance and illustrate what “good performance” looks like moving forward. This takes a lot of reflection and preparation. Don’t skimp on it.
These kinds of conversations aren’t one-and-done. Commit to following up in subsequent 1-on-1s.
These kinds of conversations aren’t one-and-done. Commit to following up in subsequent 1-on-1s. Giving and receiving feedback – positive and negative – should be a natural part of any job, not an annual audit or performance review.