Is there a conversation you need to have with an employee that you're avoiding because you know it's going to be unpleasant? With the job of supervision comes the task of addressing problems or tough issues even though you'd rather not. We procrastinate. We "wait and see" if the problem will take care of itself. We avoid the issue. In most cases, the waiting only makes the situation bigger and more hairy.

Over the next few months, our e-tips will offer some ideas for having more productive and painless performance conversations. My first tip is: focus on behaviors, not on the person.

Performance conversations are often sensitive. When you focus your approach on the person, you risk touching on their character, their value, and their worth as a human being. When you focus on observable behaviors, you'll find more success. Factually state the situation, focus on what the person did (rather than on who they are), and it will be easier for you and the other person to remain non-defensive.

Here are some examples:

Focus on the person - "You have irritated your co-workers to the point that they don't want to work with you."

Focus on the behavior - "When you avoid eye contact and don't greet your co-workers in the morning, they are less willing to work with you."

Focus on the person - "You need to work on meeting your deadlines."
Focus on the behavior - "Three times this month the deadlines were not met."

Focus on the person - "You seem to be making a lot of errors in your reports lately."
Focus on the behavior - "There have been more errors in the reports lately."

In each case, the same message is being delivered but when the focus is on the behavior, rather than on the person, it remains less emotional and more likely to be heard. Try it this month and let me know how it goes. I'd love to hear about your experiences with painless performance conversations.

Author's Bio: 

Marnie E. Green is Principal Consultant of the Chandler, AZ-based Management Education Group, Inc. Green is a speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations develop confident leaders. Contact Green at phone: 480-705-9394 email: web site:

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