A perspective I frequently share with my team and customers is that people leave people, not companies. Whether it’s a colleague, manager or executive, more often than not it’s people, more than anything else, who lead someone to seek employment elsewhere. And, like so many other issues that arise in the workplace, ineffective communication is usually a big part of the problem. Indeed, in the context of employees choosing to leave a company, inadequate feedback from a supervisor is at the root of most performance challenges and job dissatisfaction.
The reality is that many managers aren’t comfortable giving feedback or may not have found a good way to go about it. An approach I’ve found works well when talking with employees about how they’re doing is to be both candid and authentic, whether you’re delivering praise or discussing areas for improvement. The latter is where many managers struggle.
In the case of employees who aren’t meeting expectations, it’s important for managers to be direct, clear, and honest when addressing the situation. Even more important is sharing feedback in a way that demonstrates a genuine understanding of a person’s situation and an authentic interest in helping the person succeed. As employers, we have an obligation to let employees know where they’re falling short, provide thoughts on why that might be the case, counsel them on how they can turn things around and collaborate on a mutually agreed-upon course of action.
Not everybody is a self-starter, for example. If that skill is necessary in a particular role, the best course of action might be to put the person in a different job where being a self-starter isn’t a requirement and where their strong abilities in other areas could be utilized.
Similarly, an employee might be a poor communicator but a solid performer in other aspects of the job. In that case, the feedback and plan would be different because many positions require at least some level of effective communication skills. So, moving the person to a new job without addressing the communications challenge wouldn’t really be helpful to the employer or employee. Instead, it falls on the employee to make a commitment to improving their communication abilities.
Being authentic really comes down to knowing as much as you can about every aspect of an employee: personality type, interpersonal communication skills, behavioral characteristics, workstyle and attitude. I’ve always believed that people want to do a good job, and employers owe it to their people to do everything they can to help them succeed. While that’s certainly a two-way street, managers who lead and communicate with candor and authenticity put their employees in the driver’s seat on the road to professional growth and development.