You are faced with a situation where one of your line managers is hesitant to tackle a performance discussion with one of their employees – how do you manage the situation you may ask? Simple response, deal with it and don’t let it fester!
Some managers fear how an employee may react to a discussion regarding their performance and therefore tend to ignore such matters instead of facing them head on in the hope it will just resolve itself. Starting a conversation about an individual’s performance is never pleasant and may trigger a number of emotions and responses, leaving the manager uneasy to deal with the issue. Understanding and anticipating these emotions and responses and knowing how to deal with them is a skill in itself. So what kind of emotions and responses may your manager be faced with and how can they handle them … Some of this comes in the form of:
The ‘Defensive and Denial’ approach
The most typical reaction of all. and yet probably the most frustrating one for the manager to deal with. The employee tends to be attack full, with little substance to their explanation, yet they can be very good with words. Very much your Vicky Pollard spiel. “yeah but, no but!!…” The key to managing such approach is with consistency, confidence, evidence and facts, ensuring that the manager drives the meeting. Set targets, agree them with the employee and ensure regular follow up meetings take place.
Any weakness shown by the manager will undermine the credibility of the performance discussion making the employee feeling empowered and yet the main concern regarding their performance not being tackled effectively.
The ‘Not Bothered’ approach
You could go from one extreme situation such as the one described above to another, being the laid back approach of ‘am I bothered’. Yet another frustrating response where the employee shows little passion, commitment or understating to the issues being raised, which may leave the manager questioning ‘why am I bothering’?
Rarely will the manager get commitment from the employee to do things different to improve their performance. So how do you manage such approach – try and engage with the employee, get them to understand their pitfalls and discuss the way forward… this would be a good starting point.
The ‘Blame Game’ approach
Never the employee’s fault, always someone else.… ALWAYS! The most common excuses a manager gets to hear is ‘well it is not my fault.., ‘Denise in accounts never told me it was urgent….’ . Managers feel defeated and unable to proceed with the discussion as the blame lies with others, leaving the employee looking ‘whiter than white’ when this may certainly not be the case.
So how to handle – establish ownership, get the employee to understand and acknowledge their responsibilities. Try to shift their mindset from blaming others and get them to see the errors of their way.
The ‘Aggressive’ approach
In this type of reaction, employees become angry and say things impulsively or react in an emotional way. Some of the most common phrases thrown at the manager being ‘well this is just unfair….’, ‘why am I the only one being picked on…’, ‘this has come out of the blue, why now…’. All of which may leave your manager stuck for words.
The key is not to mirror the employee’s reactions but instead to remain calm, professional and stand firm. Advise the employee that their behaviour and tone is not acceptable and one which will not be tolerated if it continues. Adjourn for a cool down period and then continue with the meeting. Focus on the performance issues.
All of the above are situations which your manager may be faced with and therefore leaving them feeling defeated and unable to manage the performance issues effectively, making the process a bit of a shamble. As I stated, the key to the success of these discussions is confidence, consistency and evidence. Using a confident tone of voice and loading the employee with examples will help with the ‘blame game’ or the ‘defensive and denial’ kind of responses.