Throughout a career as a manager you are told to improve your feedback skills – both giving and receiving.
The emphasis tends to be on providing quality feedback, being as objective as possible and giving it in such a way that the recipient can build on their performance.
So what happens when the person simply doesn’t agree with your assessment?
1. You need agreement before you can expect change
This is a surprisingly overlooked aspect of feedback. If you are trying to tell a person that their performance can be improved you won’t see any changes unless they agree with you. You need to find common ground on work issues and what is not working; so agree on the problem, agree on the cause, and agree on the fix.
2. Ask why – explore and listen
As a manager you may have a very different perspective from the person to whom you are giving feedback or advice. Take the time to hear their position.
Far too many feedback systems offer only token gestures of two-way conversation, with the manager’s first assessment being the final one.
What is the point of contention? If your feedback is based on one rather than several incidents, then perhaps these facts aren’t representative of the full picture.
Do you understand the challenges of your team members? Are you hands-on enough to really know if someone is performing well or not?
3. Locus of control – and your part
Many people will blame processes, other people, circumstances or things outside of their control as a reason for poor performance.
As a manager you need to really push the discussion towards what the individual can control. It can be very difficult when an individual’s salary movements are tied to company outcomes. There is also the difference between working hard and working effectively – it can be tough for someone to realise that despite the huge effort they are putting in, they aren’t getting the required results or outcomes that they could be.
It is also pertinent to consider your own position. Did you provide enough training? Did you give too much responsibility to someone who wasn’t ready to handle it? Were you a good role model? Did you set and agree on standards?
4. Consider examples and explain why it is a problem
Criticisms such as, “You need to present better when talking to the customers” are far too broad. Try to transform a sentence like that to:
“When you just spoke to that customer I noticed that you seemed uncertain, for example, when you said, ‘Well, I’m not sure what you should have done,’ and you were talking in a way that sounded a little bit rude when you said, ‘You should have checked the instructions first’. I am sure you didn’t mean it to be that way, but if you continue to do that I feel that we might lose some customers.”
When you highlight the outcome and pair it with a specific action the person has somewhere clear to begin.
Being specific with behaviour/outcome pairings may result in the person disagreeing with the outcome. If this is the case, suggest a trial period of a new approach, it may be more convincing than a battle of opinions.
5. The non-negotiables
There must be minimum standards of behaviour that your team or company accepts. These are not open to negotiation and differences of opinion on these might need to be met with more firmness than usual.
Strong feedback is an essential part of an open and honest working environment, but if mutual respect is to be achieved then everyone must be able to discuss the feedback and the incidents and perceptions that have led to that.
Perception differs dramatically from one person to the next, so it is essential that common ground be found. If the disagreement continues it will be difficult to progress, so make it a priority to explain the feedback, the reasons why and set standards that must be reached going forwards.
Eve Ash has produced a wide range of videos to help people learn effective people management skills and communication skills. Now she is producing comedy films to help people at work Laugh, Discuss and Learn