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Difficult Conversations – The Manager’s 3A’s


Isn’t it simpler to be the ice-cream seller rewarding every child than the school teacher telling them right from wrong? It is an equally tough job to be a manager when it comes to judging the performance of an individual and bringing the best out of them. In this article, we discuss the three A’s of difficult conversations, and how you can implement them in the context of performance appraisals.

When having difficult conversations, your words may go unheard by your team member. Once the tough sentence is put out there, people find it hard to focus on anything else. Call it ‘developmental feedback’, ‘constructive criticism’, or just ‘the harsh reality’, very few may have the maturity to receive and process the information.

As a manager, it is your responsibility to build the trust factor that works both ways – your feedback is valued, and you ensure your employees get the best possible recognition for what they did.

The 3A’s Of Difficult Conversations

Accept – When it comes to deciding the rating of an individual’s performance over a year, remind yourself of how critical it is for their morale and commitment to a future association with the organization. The more you make yourself ready for it, the easier it will be. Believe that you are trying to give the best of what you have to every appraisee. Every conversation will not be smooth flowing and all smiles. Accept and understand that it is okay for a discussion to be uncomfortable. If you are telling someone that their efforts were not sufficient or not up to set standards or that their hike will be a number lower than their expectations, there will be some disappointment, maybe even resentment in the room.

Answer – Be prepared to accommodate emotional outbursts or irrelevant references but ensure you answer every question they have. It is not sailing an easy tide for sure, but you can try and explain what the process guidelines and your limitations in coming up with your review analysis were. Let them know that you have better and higher expectations of them. Give specific examples to back your statements. They might keep repeatedly questioning until they trust that you are doing the best you can within the organization’s structure. Don’t lose your patience or temper.

Abide – Stick to organizational guidelines and make sure that appraisees are aware of and understand the same. Make sure you have feedback collected over the year ready and a chart of how it converts to the rating you give. Prepare with what your expectations are and how flexible you are when it comes to a hike. Convey your reasons and set the expectations right and let them know you are ready to give your full support for their performance improvement.

Though finally, you cannot ensure a smile on their face, try to end the conversation on a lighter note. Try finding that point where your interests converge and encourage the appraisee to pursue that path and see where it takes them. At the end of the day, not getting a hike you were expecting is usually hard to face, so try and be as empathetic as possible to their concerns.

Also read: Is your organisation giving the performance review process the manager time and effort it deserves?

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