I am sure the answer to that question is different for each of us. For me, I have found it connects primarily with my people pleasing nature.

In a previous position, I remember needing to give negative feedback to someone directly under my supervision. It took me probably 3 weeks longer than it should have to decide I needed to actually address the behavior (okay, maybe 3 months, but who’s counting?!) Once I decided to address the behavior I then had to figure out how I would communicate what the issues actually were and not just tell the person I think they suck (Just being honest here! Don’t act like you can’t relate!) The reality is that they don’t suck, they are just displaying a few behaviors that I would like to see improvement in. Which is what it boils down to: defining the actual behaviors.

Defining the actual behaviors allows the person the opportunity to address the behaviors and make changes. If they just suck as a person how are they supposed to change that? It was important for me to recognize that there are a lot of things this person does really well. The area I needed to address is just one area of their overall performance. (If it is in every area of their performance and I have not addressed it then that is totally on me and I need to get a grip and handle things!)

For me, the next action step was writing down what I wanted to say. I find that when I write it I can go back and edit out all the stupid things I would like to say but shouldn’t. It forces me to be concise and ensures that the feedback I am giving is based on behaviors and not my personal feelings or differences with this person. It also forces me to clearly communicate what behaviors I want to see instead of those that are inappropriate. Writing it down also gives me some notes to follow when I am actually having the conversation so that I do not get off track or go on the defensive if they get upset.

The bottom line is giving negative feedback is never easy. But as a supervisor, if I am not giving my direct reports both the positive and negative feedback they need I am robbing them of the opportunity for growth. Even my people pleaser self can line up with that.