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Tips for Having Constructive Performance Conversations (COR1-J03)


This job aid provides tips on how to have constructive performance conversations with employees.

Published: November 30, 2016
Type: Job aid

Tips for Having Constructive Performance Conversations

Before the meeting

  • Prepare notes and identify the facts. What are the key messages you want to deliver.
  • If an emergency arises and you can't give the employee your undivided attention, cancel the meeting and rebook.
  • Set aside smartphones, email and text messages.
  • Pay attention to the seating arrangements. The atmosphere should encourage two-way conversation.

During the meeting

  • Thank the employee for coming to the meeting.
  • Keep an open mind.
  • Remain calm and composed.
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Listen attentively and paraphrase back what the employee has said.
  • Be aware of your body language—it should be neutral.
  • Don't be afraid of silence.
  • Say that you will be taking notes so that you can follow up on matters that are important to both of you.
  • Encourage the employee to make suggestions, and explain that it is your role as a manager or supervisor to help employees succeed.
  • Focus on the performance, not on the person.

If the employee appears defensive or makes excuses

  • Stop and ask yourself if you provided interpretations rather than observations.
  • Allow the employee to express him or herself. When you respond, do not react emotionally.
  • Ask yourself if there is anything you can do to help diminish the employee's defensiveness.
  • Consider ending the meeting to allow the employee and you to reflect on the situation.

If the employee becomes angry

  • Avoid arguments.
  • Let the employee continue talking as long as necessary until he or she is ready to listen to you.
  • Say the employee's name.
  • Identify what is causing the angry reaction and try to understand what is important for the employee.
  • Ask yourself what the employee needs to regain their composure.
  • Consider taking a short break and resuming when the employee has regained control over their emotions.

If the employee is unresponsive or withdraws

  • Ask the employee what he or she understood from your comments.
  • Ask whether there is anything else that you should know that could be affecting his or her performance.
  • Find out what is keeping the employee from participating.
  • Be patient and friendly.
  • Show concern.
  • Allow silence for a moment; wait for the employee to talk.
  • Tell the employee that it is important for you to hear what he or she has to say.
  • Say that your intent is to help him or her to succeed.
  • State what your intention is and what it is not. Refocus on a common goal.
  • Propose ending the meeting and meeting again to determine together what might be done to resolve the issues raised.

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