It May Be For Reasons You Haven”t Thought About – Part 1 of 2
Guest Post by Chad O”Connor, Communication Consultant & Adjunct Professor
Perhaps you”ve been in a situation recently where you had to give someone a less than satisfactory performance review. Did it go over well? Did it feel comfortable?
While everyone”s circumstances are different, let”s examine some common and very real possibilities in your calculus –
- The employee in question does his/her job well, but has personality conflicts with your other team members or with your external constituents/clients.
- As a small organization this person is instrumental in what your organization does in spite of his or her flaws. If you alienate this person with a review and he/she leaves then your organization is in trouble.
- If you are not direct with what you say then the extent of the problem won”t be conveyed.
- In trying to be direct about
the problem, you are likely to anger/alienate this person because he/she will become defensive.
This is a balancing act. You need to get this one just right.
As tempting as it may be to simply defer the difficult review indefinitely, to let it drag on more than two cycles could be sending the wrong message to your other team members – that you are weak and incapable; that you don”t notice problems; that if he/she is staying then your other employees better think about leaving if they can”t stand working with him/her; or that you will tolerate all sorts of problems so long as the job is done to a satisfactory level. You need to be proactive in handling the problem because to do otherwise would communicate the wrong messages to your team. But to risk losing this person without a backup plan would send an equally disastrous message – that you are unprepared; that you are impetuous and rash; or that you don”t think of the ripple effect this problem could cause for other team members who may already be overtaxed.
Strategic analysis: You cannot let your organization become too dependent on any one person to get things done. What if something comes up with his/her health that would take him/her out of the organization for an extended period? If you have no good answer for this possibility of things that are truly beyond your control, then it stands to reason you are afraid to push this person out for reasons fully within your control. In either case, the answer is bad – you are too dependent. You need to start taking steps to cross-train employees and get some people familiar with that person”s day to day responsibilities.
Strategic communication advice: Do not to focus immediately on the person”s performance review itself, rather reframe the discussion about how you think this is an organizational problem that needs to be addressed and that you want to get that person some help in terms of having someone to shadow, pitch in, or be a designated assistant to him/her. This tells the person that you value him/her and hopefully gets you some cushion time to assess your next steps while someone learns the ropes. Your subsequent reviews and conversations can be much more direct and straightforward, but you will now have some assurance that if this relationship cannot be saved that you have some better options at your disposal. We will talk a little about those more straightforward message tactics in the next installment of this blog, so stay tuned.
As always, I welcome your thoughts…
Chad O’Connor has taught communication at Northeastern University and Emerson College in Boston, serves as a connector for Boston World Partnerships, and works with various individuals, companies and nonprofits as a communication consultant on issues such as public speaking, message strategy, and improving organizational communication. Chad can be contacted at his gmail account, email@example.com ,and found on Twitter @chadoconnor.
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