Nobody likes conflict. But when you’re a leader trying to manage a struggling team, it can feel as if you’re veering from one conflict situation to the next: stakeholders are unhappy, customers are unhappy and staff are unhappy.
The only way to fix the first two is to address the unhappiness and underperformance of your team members. Here are a few tips for how to go about approaching that with an employee.
Picture the team member in their free time
We are not our jobs. Of course, it can feel like we are, but really the person we are at work and the things we do in the office – they are not us. So bear that in mind when preparing to give negative feedback to a team member – you are not criticising them, not ripping the key parts of their personality – their very being – to shreds. Imagine them with their friends and family at the weekend – that’s the real them, the really important stuff. If you get too worked up about the criticism you’re about to impart, it’ll seem heavier than it really is. Keep the big picture in mind and the criticism will be easier to give and easier to receive.
Introduce solutions before even mentioning the problem
When you’re preparing to meet a team member to give negative feedback, think deeply about the ways in which you might personally have failed them or let them down and also come up with a few solutions to the situation – training, rejigging their workload, more regular catch-ups. Begin the discussion with those aspects and introduce the need for the solution later in the chat. Really it’s the solution that matters, after all.
Consider that the ‘criticism’ might be welcome
Your team member might be absolutely crying out for help – but has been too scared to ask for it. In fact, they might know they’re doing something wrong but just need someone else to notice it too. And bear in mind, too, that you’re actually serving your team badly by ignoring bad practice just to avoid so-called conflict. You owe it to your team to help them grow.
Get your facts right
Don’t be woolly. There’s nothing more infuriating than being criticised without that criticism being backed up with examples. It doesn’t have to be a case file that you slam down on the desk, but you should have some concrete data to support your feedback.
Catch the problem early
Ideally, it won’t get to the point where you’re having some kind of showdown. If you have catch-ups scheduled sufficiently regularly, then feedback in those meetings should keep your team ticking along nicely. If you find yourself having to dole out a big out-of-the-blue serving of criticism, then it could be you’re not leading effectively.