I have two situations with clients right now that are struggling with the same dynamic: leaders who are waiting to have feedback conversations with their employees because they know it’s going to be uncomfortable.
In one case, the manager is just keeps putting it off “until the time is right” and they feel prepared to have the conversation. The issue they are avoiding is bad behavior going on between two employees…and by avoiding or waiting to have the conversation, the employees keep behaving the same way, which is creating damage to their reputation.
In my experience, good employees who are engaged, and accountable want feedback on how to improve. They actually want the thing we avoid giving them so when you think about it, it’s a very selfish thing to do. Putting our discomfort about the conversation over what is their best interest is probably the lowest EQ thing we can do as a leader.
Here are some of the other consequences of not sharing feedback with employees:
1. The behavior almost never changes (instead it only continues – and makes it worse for everybody).
2. By the time you sit down and talk to them, they’re kind of mad at you because you didn’t tell them sooner. By saying nothing you sent a message that their behavior was acceptable. So in a way it’s sabotaging them…so, it feels to them like a setup which damages trust.
3. People lose respect for you. They start to think, “If you’re afraid of this, how will you make even harder decisions (i.e., where is their confidence in you as a leader) or take tougher action when it comes to standing up for the department at higher levels of the company?” Their perception of you is that you can’t have difficult conversations or will shy away from a challenge. Is that what you want your reputation to be with your employees? Probably not.
I know that most managers avoid tough feedback conversations because they are afraid it will derail. They assume that if it doesn’t go well they will do more damage by having the conversation than by just allowing the behavior to continue. But in reality, by sharing that you are having a difficult conversation and overcoming your discomfort to give them a heads up on the ways that their behavior is hurting them, you are seen as someone on their side, not just that you’re unhappy with them as a manager.
So just remember when we don’t do the uncomfortable, we do a disservice to everyone involved.
For more tips on giving feedback, check out these articles: