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By Darryl Stewart
A woman covering her ears

Why you need to tell them what they don’t want to hear

According to Gallup, a powerful indicator of engagement at work is strong agreement with the statement: “Someone at work seems to care about me as a person”. Another is strong agreement with: “Someone has talked to me about my progress in the last six months”.

For some of my career as a leader, I would beat around the bush when I saw someone’s performance fall short. Many times, I would just let it go. When I did get up the courage to address the issue, I would try to sugar coat it out of fear of dis-engaging them. I didn’t give full details about what I saw as the problem and I didn’t express what my expectations were for the future. Not surprisingly, improvement was rare.

Today, when someone under-performs, I do what I have learned to do from great leaders. As soon as possible, I have a private conversation with the employee. I spell out exactly what I see as a problem and I ask the person to explain the situation. I then take all the time necessary to make sure we both understand what the future expectation is. I am direct and straightforward about what my concerns are. The old me would be mortified at how direct I can be! The reaction from staff? Almost always positive! True to Gallup’s research, when you take the time to show you care about someone’s success by talking with them about their performance, they genuinely appreciate it. On the rare occasion when the reaction is negative, it is usually because I was wrong in my assessment of a situation. After a quick and sincere apology from me we can both carry on with the air cleared and my perception corrected – also a win.

When you see under-performance in one of your staff, be direct, listen well to their side, be fair, and be clear about your expectations. If this is not yet your habit, I highly encourage you to go there. It will improve engagement with your team and increase your leadership cred substantially.

IBEX Payroll extends our profound respect and immeasurable gratitude to all the ancestors and keepers of the land on whose traditional territories our work takes place. We acknowledge that we are on Treaty 1 territory, the traditional gathering place of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota and Dene people and the traditional homeland of the Métis people. This land is sacred, historical, and significant. 

Every time we acknowledge this truth, we have an invitation and an opportunity to reflect on the wrongs of the past, what we do in the present, and what we can do to continually honour the people whose lands and water we benefit from today. 

This statement only acts as a first step in honouring the land we reside on and its peoples, and must be paired with education, understanding and informed action.