If someone on your project team isn't working up to par, it might take more than a simple showing of your disapproval to put him on the right track. Johanna Rothman suggests trying specific and useful feedback--show your employees the light before you show them the door.
Margaret, a manager, was concerned about one of her employees, Chad. She met with her manager, Peter, to discuss the problem.
"Chad just isn't cutting it," Margaret said. "He's not finishing anything on time, and what he does finish is full of defects. His attitude is so bad that no one wants to work with him. I guess I'll have to let him go."
"I hate to see you do that. He's been productive up until the last couple of months," Peter said. "Have you told Chad about these problems?"
"Well, I told him I was disappointed with his work."
"But have you given him specific feedback?"
"Telling him I'm disappointed isn't specific?" Margaret asked, puzzled.
Peter paused for a moment and replied, "Saying you're disappointed is not useful feedback. If I told you I was disappointed in your management of Chad, you wouldn't know what I was disappointed about. I'd create a parentchild dynamic, instead of a collegial relationship between adults at work. I'd reduce your trust in me because I'd be treating you more like a child than an adult. That dynamic would persist even after I give you specific examples.
"You'll need to give Chad specific and recent examples of the work or behavior you want to change. Are you going to tell him what to do, or are you willing to solve the problems jointly?"
"We'll work out the answers together," replied Margaret.
"Your big challenge is to construct the feedback so that Chad can hear it. Feel free to ask me for help," said Peter.
Margaret had three issues to discuss with Chad: lateness of his deliverables defects in his deliverables, and his attitude. She had specific instances of Chad's late deliverables and his defects, but she needed to identify the specific behaviors he had exhibited that led her to conclude that he had a bad attitude.
Margaret constructed the feedback message by first creating an opening to talk. Next, she would describe the behavior or results she had seen, stating the impact in ways that affected her personally. Finally, she would make a request for change.
Since Margaret hadn't been giving Chad feedback regularly, she needed to be very careful about creating an opening. When she was ready to talk to Chad, she stopped by his office and said, "Chad, I'd like to have a conversation about our working relationship. Are you available this Wednesday at 1:30 p.m.?"
Chad replied, "Sure, 1:30 Wednesday is great."
Margaret prepared talking points. By writing a script, she wouldn't be flustered when it was time to talk to Chad. She wouldn't actually use the script when speaking with him, but would practice it beforehand so she would know what to say.
She was sure the meeting would differ from the script, but the script would help her to identify the issues she wanted to address and ways to phrase the feedback.
On Wednesday afternoon, Chad arrived in Margaret's office. He sat, put down his notebook, and said, "Margaret, I'm so glad we have this chance to talk. I've been really unhappy here the last couple of months. I really dislike this work. When can I finish this and move to that other project?"
Though surprised by the meeting's early turn, Margaret finally realized what had been happening for Chad. Because he disliked the work, he was dragging his feet and not performing up to his usual standards.
She adjusted her original script and focused on the problem at hand.
"I'm really glad you told me this," she said. "I wasn't aware of your dissatisfaction, but I have noticed
|Feedback Before Firing||1.88 MB|