Scared To Deliver Feedback? Don’t Be.

“Wow, no one ever told me.”

This phrase has been uttered by too many people in the working world. Wouldn’t you agree? Have you ever said it?


It continues to amaze me that leaders can’t or don’t choose to provide difficult feedback when an employee isn’t performing to expectations. How many employees do you believe were surprised over the past year when notified they no longer had jobs and their roles were eliminated in part due to their performance!? Too many. And the number one Value missing in that experience according to those employees? Respect.


“There’s just no respect. I can’t believe how I was treated. I thought I was doing just fine!”


Providing truthful, constructive, behavioral-based feedback to an employee is the least a leader can do — especially in this economy. Employees are big boys and girls and can handle truthful, fact-based feedback. They may not like it, but they want and demand to know! Otherwise nothing ever makes sense to them in their world of career aspiration and day to day contribution and it only creates underlying negativity, lost engagement and in most cases an inaccurate perception of reality. Bottom line – lost productivity and results!


Performance management research has indicated that on average of 75% of employees never receive any form of feedback on their performance in their jobs. Why? Why can’t their leaders handle delivering this feedback? They don’t have time? Or they are afraid? I mean, really – what’s the big fear? Each of us needs validation of how we are doing, and help in understanding how to bridge any gap between the company’s expectations and our performance. And each leader has a responsibility to do this – this is an expectation of leadership. Are you a leader or aren’t you? The time it takes to actually have a real dialogue with your employee can come back to you ten-fold in results. And attempting the discussion is half the effort.


Successful leaders know that to grow a team and a company you must be willing to provide coaching and development along the way. And in some cases make the tough call on talent that isn’t getting you the results you need or letting go and promoting the best talent outside of your team for their career growth. Now, THAT is real leadership! But why is it so difficult? Are leaders really that afraid of hurting someone’s feelings or risking your employees not liking you or reacting negatively to something you say? Or do leaders not know how to ask for help in providing feedback and coaching to the point where they just avoid it?


If you stick to the facts, to the truth and provide insight into what success looks like, then you can more easily remove your own ego from the circumstance and it can actually work. Providing specific behaviors and examples in the spirit of helping an employee help themselves succeed shouldn’t derail your underlying relationship. And at the end of the day, whether your employees like you or not shouldn’t matter – because that’s not the point. The point is having a relationship in the first place that allows such dialogue and results in respect for all involved. Respecting you, the leader, for being honest. Not a relationship based on false beliefs and misconstrued expectations by all parties involved.


Ignoring or avoiding either mediocre, or top talent for that matter (it happens, your top talent are doing great so no need to talk with them either, right?) …over the long run won’t help anyone, especially the company’s overall success. And eventually the career success of the hesitant leader is at risk, which hampers her or his ability to get results on their watch by avoiding the tough calls.


It is the least you can do.


I believe Jack Welch summarizes it well in this quote: “I think the cruelest thing you can do to somebody is give them the head fake . . . nice appraisals . . . that’s called false kindness. A removal should never be a surprise.”

Why do you think it is so hard for leaders to give feedback to their employees? Leave your comments!

Nicoa is the Managing Partner of Holland Archer and President and Chief Relationship Rover of Roving Coach International where she brings 16 years of experience in global corporate communications and strategic human resources (HR). As a strategic business partner and coach, her collaborative approach to innovative problem solving is refreshing and motivating for those working with her. An undergraduate of NC State University, master’s of arts graduate from Ball State University and certified in international business administration from Charles Sturt University (Australia), her career background also includes 8+ years with GE, where she graduated from the GE Human Resources Leadership Program (HRLP). Her 4+ years with Thermo Fisher Scientific (TMO) spanned 20 countries and included over 10,000 employees in her client group. And most recently as the SVP of HR for Allscripts Healthcare Solutions where she provided key leadership in the transformation of Misys Healthcare, positioning the company and culture for growth and the ultimate merger with Allscripts — creating the NEW Allscripts (MDRX).

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