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Providing Critical Performance Feedback

Providing Critical Performance Feedback
Very often, I hear managers complain they don’t know how to give critical performance feedback. And as a result, they delay giving a critical performance feedback, or sometimes don’t give it at all. Consider the organizational implications of those actions, wherein people who need feedback the most often don’t get it. And so I thought I’d propose a checklist of how to think about giving critical negative performance feedback. Now first of all, when there’s a need to give someone critical performance feedback, don’t wait. Don’t wait until the end of the year to give them that feedback. Recall the video of Melanie and Matt.
Melanie has failed Matt in that situation, too, because she waited until the end of the year to give that feedback to Matt. Secondly, be very careful in that conversation, and focus on behaviors, and not on personality. I can change my behaviors, but it’s harder for me to change my personality. So don’t tell me that I’m lazy. Tell me that you were late for these two meetings, and the deliverables on those projects were subpar. And don’t come with the laundry list of 40 different items, because by item 7, I will stop listening. So focus on a small subset of a few key behaviors that you believe are essential for me to change. Be very specific. Do not “sandwich” or “sugarcoat”.
By sandwiching your feedback, I mean the often recommended advice of starting with positive feedback, then providing the meat, which is the negative feedback, and closing with another bun, which is another piece of positive feedback. Don’t do that, because people often focus on that positive feedback, instead of the critical, valuable piece of performance feedback. Don’t sugarcoat, either. We have a tendency to sugarcoat because we want to be liked, but by sugarcoating, you often distort the message. And as a result, you deprive the person of the opportunity to adjust their behavior, so you do them a disservice. Confirm that the person understands your feedback. So avoid the illusion of transparency. This is very critical.
And follow up with positive reinforcement soon after you see the desired changes in the person’s behaviors.
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