Trouble With Difficult Performance Reviews? Grab the Tissues.
As a Small Business owner, there are many challenges that you are going to face – cash flow, relationship with suppliers, competitors and financing growth. One of the challenges that most business owners seem to dread the most is providing difficult performance feedback if they think it is going to emotionally upset the person hearing it.
Some Small Business owners don’t like being the bearer of bad news. You may be tough in business, but most business owners are compassionate when it comes to dealing with their people. At times that care for employees stops you from giving the feedback that is needed. At other times, you don’t want there to be a ‘scene’, and so you stay silent. Wrong move.
Feedback is essential for people in your business to know what they are doing well and also to correct things that need to be amended. Typically, there are two key reasons for someone getting upset at the prospect of performance feedback.
- They have had a ‘bad’ experience sometime in the past – perhaps been yelled at – and are afraid that it will happen again.
- There is a reason the employee doesn’t want to hear negative feedback and s/he is trying to avoid the confronting news or truth.
What does this mean? It means that you must provide feedback. And constructive feedback.
If an employee has had a bad experience in the past, then you need to give them a professional experience. Do not go soft if there are issues to be addressed. It is your right to provide reasonable management direction – so do it!
In either case the employee may get emotional at which time you need to:
- Stay calm
- Avoid getting into an argument
- Stick to the evidence and facts that you have
- Reassure the employee that your intention is to improve their performance (not to sack them)
An employee who cries will need a tissue. Have them on hand and allow the employee to regain their composure before you continue. Help the person to realise that either: the process with you will not be as bad or awful as their past experience, or you will not be bluffed out of providing feedback. Simple, how a box of tissues can help.
On a serious note, here are a couple of key phrases to use when providing feedback that could change the dynamic:
1. ASK – BASED ON YOUR EFFORT, HOW ARE YOU FEELING ABOUT THE RESULTS YOU HAVE BEEN ACHIEVING?
Obviously, you would adjust the wording to suit your style and industry, but the essence of this questions is really powerful. It puts the focus on the employee rather than on you telling them what you think. Most people are really hard on themselves and will understate how they have been performing. This opens the door for you to provide helpful feedback and insights on how and where they can improve.
2. OFFER INSIGHT – GIVEN THAT MY FOCUS IS THE WHOLE TEAM/BUSINESS, I’D LIKE TO SHARE HOW YOUR CONTRIBUTION FITS INTO THE OVERALL PERCEPTION.
Calmly share your views on the impact of what the employee is (or isn’t) doing and achieving.
This approach makes the feedback process a two-way conversation, and it also ensures that the employee has a focus on why they do what they do and how it impacts others, including your customers and also other staff.
3. CONSIDER – IF THE EMPLOYEE IS NEW TO THE ROLE AND POSSIBLY IN NEED OF SOME MENTORING OR COACHING.
This support to improve performance in all or part of the role can come from you or someone else in the business, and it will build their skills and confidence.
As Henry Ford said, “If I train them, and they leave that’s a risk, not as a big a risk as if I don’t train them, and they stay.” Sometimes an investment in the skill of your team helps them and helps you too.
Having tissues in your office is good not only in hay fever season but also as a simple reminder that staying calm and composed can allow good quality conversations to happen. Avoiding them does nothing to solve the problem, and in fact, matters are likely to just get worse if ignored and left alone.
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