Sharing feedback is every first-time supervisors’ nightmare. Someone on your team got a low score, and it’s time for a discussion with her. How do you do it?
Incidentally, this post was inspired by a prompt from Paddy – if you find it useful, you owe him one.
There are three ways you can handle the situation.
Take the Cowards way out:
You can blame it on the system, bell curves, leadership – anything. But beware, this will awaken the inner “”Taken Liam Neeson”” in your HR team!
Spin it like a Lawyer!
Throw some jargon to let the associate know where she was found short – important-sounding words like Thought Leadership, Value Addition, Influential Leadership, Proactiveness, etc., and hope something will stick. If it does, great. Most probably, though, you will end up as a caricature “”bad leader”” or clown in the eyes of your team.
You tell it like it is. I trust if you have made it this far, this is what you want to do.
Congratulations – you are a courageous leader. We need more of you around!
I have a phrase that’s served me well through the years.
Don’t do unto others what you don’t want done unto you.
However, if you’d like a checklist, here’s one you can use. It’s a bit long – so please grab a coffee and settle in.
Planning for Sharing Feedback
1. Formally send out a calendar invite – and well in advance. If you have a room, great – else book a conference room. If doing it remotely (as you will be doing it this time), use video. It’s best to not record the conversations – it will make both of you uneasy. Sometimes, these meetings can get emotional – you don’t want the associate to get embarrassed. So keep it in closed doors. If possible, avoid Fridays – you don’t want to spoil the associate’s weekend.
2. Put your phones on silent and face-down. No one should disturb you during the meeting.No exceptions. Encourage the associate to do the same too. Distractions not only make the meeting less effective, but they also signal the discussion is of less priority.
3. Unless something you absolutely cannot move comes up, don’t move this meeting out. Again its to do with the signaling importance.
4. If the person is on your team, hopefully, you have talked to her and shared feedback throughout the year. If it’s a new person on the team, you may not have that luxury. In either case, make your data available to the candidate before the meeting to come prepared from her side.
Sharing Feedback – Meeting time
5. Recap the appraisal process in a few minutes. Clarify that the rating is not a reflection on the person but on his relative performance during the year.
6. If you prefer, you can use the sandwich method – share a positive first, and then the rating and critical negatives. Close with some positives (maybe the way forward.)
7. I prefer to directly share the rating and feedback. Ensure the candidate understands this session is mainly to hear her out – it’s a listening session.
8. Let her speak and listen intently. If there is something you need clarification on, interrupt. But other than that, listen intently to her side of the story. Listening is a skill – hear both the spoken and unspoken words and emotions.
9. Take notes. Allow the associate some leeway on emotions (I have had people sometimes burst into tears). Many will vent their frustrations – that’s ok. Just make sure you don’t allow any toxic conversation (cribbing about someone else or the system). You should own this discussion end-end.
10. Sometimes, the candidate may try baiting you (throw up a random point and ask you if you fed that into the rating). My recommendation is not to take the bait. Let him know you are taking notes and will address everything comprehensively.
11. Summarize the notes, including concerns(performance parameters not adequately considered, any allegations of bias, etc.) Block a follow-up meeting to address these points.
12. Spend the last few minutes on other topics. Assure the associate of confidentiality. Sometimes, associates like to hear how you dealt with similar situations; other times, they open up on their goals. Keep the conversation warm and genuine. Address queries on chances of rating change honestly. Make sure you end the meeting by letting her know you value her as a person. Offer her a day off – sometimes, these processes can get very overwhelming.
13. Document and share the minutes post the meeting and ask the associate to fill in any missed points.
Post the Meeting
14. Introspect on concerns (you may need to reach out to other people too). If there is a mistake, accept it. Involve other organizational teams and start the review process.
15. Hold the follow-up meeting with the candidate. Go over the concerns one by one with your findings. It’s ok to agree to disagree. Unless warranted, don’t allow the associate to bring in new problems, nor should you bring in new “”downer”” factors. Stick to the plan, summarise and close it formally. As always, document the minutes and get confirmation. If your investigations reveal doubt w.r.t the ratings, let her know you are initiating the review process.
16. If she is still unhappy, let her know she can avail of the escalation process.
17. Close the meeting with 5-15 minutes of general talk. Reiterating the fact that you value the associate is most important.
18. Remember to take care of yourself. These meetings can be emotionally overwhelming for you too. If that is the case, take a day off to recover. I prefer a Wodehouse story or a Jackie chan movie myself 🙂
There’s something important happening in these sessions. The associate is learning by example. She is likely to use these lessons to conduct sessions when she turns Manager. And many a time, these are the sessions that build trust and turn us into mentors.
Be professional and be human – you can’t go wrong. Good luck!
Received a poor rating and need help? Try this hack.