Are You Avoiding a Difficult Conversation?

Time for feedback

Providing feedback or disciplining employees can be a hard part of a supervisor or manager’s job. They can be difficult conversations to have, but are extremely important to set expectations for good behaviour and conduct from employees. The purpose of a feedback conversation is to work towards improvement in an employee’s behaviour, not to discourage or punish the employee.

It is important to address performance issues as they arise and take a proactive approach to discipline. Feedback that is ongoing and two-way throughout the year means that there are no surprises when it comes to the annual performance review.

“Employees who receive ‘in the moment’ feedback understand how their behaviour or performance needs to change in order to have a successful annual review.”

So how do you manage behaviour “on the fly” or in the moment?

  • Discuss issues as soon as they happen to ensure timely feedback.
  • Be specific about what the employee did wrong—without getting bogged down in specifics. Be direct, open and honest by stating facts and what was observed. Refer to relevant policies and procedures.
  • Seek to understand the problem and focus on the facts of the issue. Be ready to listen and ask the employee if he or she was aware that the misconduct could result in disciplinary action and try to get at the root of the problem to be able to correct behaviour.
  • Clarify expectations of good performance with the employee. Provide employees with the information they need to discipline themselves.
  • Be clear about what the employee must do to improve. Support employees by providing them with some advice on what they could do or take a few minutes and do some brainstorming with them so that you can come up with some ideas for improvement together. Get agreement on accountabilities.
  • Inform the employee about future consequence(s) if there is no improvement in meeting expectations of the organization (i.e. formal discipline or termination). Balance the conversation by ensuring they are aware of the seriousness of the situation, but provide them with the encouragement they need to improve.
  • It is extremely important to document the behavior and any disciplinary actions taken. This provides a record of what went on and a reference for any policy breaches or behavior issues that may happen in the future.
  • Be as consistent as possible when dealing with problem behavior. All employees should be treated the same in the case of a policy violation.
  • Give balanced feedback. Be mindful of multiple negative comments as this may be demotivating and overwhelming. Give the employee reasonable time to absorb the information and take corrective action.
  • If the situation warrants, there may be a need to move to a more formalized disciplinary procedure. Monitor the situation and take ongoing action, including ongoing documentation of actions taken to address the situation.Refer to the policy manual on the formal Discipline steps and consult with HR.

Your Engaged Assignment: Consider the performance of your employees. Have you been avoiding any difficult conversations? Is there anyone that you need to provide some feedback to? If you have staff that you think might be surprised at their next annual review, you might want to start giving them some feedback now, in the moment, so that they can make some improvements before that meeting.