Giving Feedback to Low Performers

Having a conversation with an employee about their low performance is tough. 

How do you start the conversation?  Where do you talk with them, in your office or their work area? What if they get angry with you? The reasons against having that performance conversation quickly pile up in your head. As a leader you've got to overcome the uncomfortable feelings.  A performance conversation is so crucial in delivering the feedback your employee needs to improve that I wanted to share a few resources to help you prepare.

Perfect your Practice

Plan to practice with a partner for quick 10 minute sessions a few days before you have the conversation. Practice the two parts of a performance conversation that typically throw people off: your opening lines and an unexpected reaction from the employee. 

Getting the conversation started in a clear and focused manner will set the tone for a productive discussion.  Script your first 2-3 sentences and practice until they come naturally. 

You'll also want to have your partner react to the feedback in a couple different ways: 

  • Be passive and non-committal

  • Accept enthusiastically

  • Pushback and be hostile  

Give yourself some reps on the reaction you're most afraid of so it doesn't derail the discussion if it happens.  Here are more resources for you:

Here's a quick read...

Harvard Business Review article on 7 Tips for Difficult Conversations

A quick video...

Margie Warrell shares how to give critical feedback

A deeper read...

Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone, Sheila Heen, and Bruce Patton

Have a productive day!


Mike Mullican