We've all been there. You like your employee. They're a great person, they've got a family to support, but their performance just isn't what it needs to be. As a manager, you need to give them feedback. Like many of us, you may be tempted to try and deliver your feedback in the nicest way possible. However, this actually may do more harm than good!
When managers sugarcoat their feedback, what often happens is that the specifics get lost in the attempt to make your criticism as nice as possible. Employees may leave the conversation confused as to what they need to do or worse- they have no idea they just received a critique! So how do you deliver feedback without losing the message in the niceness? Here's my advice:
1. Be clear and to the point
Make sure you're making the point in crystal-clear language. This may seem harsh, so I like to start with a compliment, then move into the critique. For example, "Ann, I really appreciate your positivity and the energy you bring to our team. However, your sales have been below 20% this past month. What's going on?"
2. Lay out expectations and consequences
Often, managers leave the conversation open-ended without clearly laying out what they need to see going forwards. This puts employees at a huge disadvantage, as they can't reach your goals if they don't know what they are! Say something like "I need to see your sales above 20% by May 1st. Otherwise, we'll need to terminate your employment. Given that, what can I do to support you so we can get your sales back up?"
3. Follow up via email
After the conversation, document what was said in clear terms via email. I like using bullet points for this. State what issue was addressed, what the expectation is (including a deadline), and what you can offer to help them overcome this issue. By sending this email, you make sure that the employee doesn't forget anything that was said during the meeting, especially if emotions were high.
If there's one thing I always tell new employees, it's this: documenting is your best friend.
Have a problem employee? Documenting from day 1 can take letting them go that much easier. Employee does amazing work and tackles multiple projects with ease? If you write it down, performance reviews will be a breeze and you won't risk forgetting important accomplishments. Alternatively, if performance wasn't up to par, documenting can make your evaluation objective and fair. Want to stay on top of all the projects your team is on? Document with project management software, emails, or even a giant whiteboard behind your desk! When in doubt, document.
To demonstrate, let me share the story of the first person I ever fired. When I was promoted, I started creating performance metrics for all of my staff. I wanted to make sure that I was objective in my evaluations of staff and could keep an eye on their performance. To my surprise, I discovered that one employee had done no work in the past 8 years. Absolutely zero- his job was to delete records and none had been deleted in 8 years. I was flabbergasted.
Had this been caught in his first year on the job, perhaps he could have been retrained. However, because I caught it so late and previous conversations with supervisors were not documented, I had to start from scratch and go through the process of a PIP. Moral of the story, document from day one. Don't let problems marinade for years before taking action. By recording issues from the day they start, you can help to catch issues early and make your job easier in the long run.
Is there a time you wish you had documented? Share below!
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