Having a feedback conversation with a difficult person

Having a Feedback Conversation with a Difficult Person

We’ve all smiled at the phrase “you know, feedback is a gift”.  But the receiver’s defensive reaction(s) can be a significant deterrent, when you are simply trying to be helpful by providing them feedback.  This is especially true if the receiver is someone who typically responds with difficult behaviors such as: interrupting, justifying, arguing, or worse, lashing out with brutal attacks.  They are often unaware (or even in denial) about their behavior.  I refer to these people as B/C Players.

Some leaders of B/C Players will “look the other way” and tolerate these behaviors.

The most common excuses I hear are:  “But they’re so productive and produce results”, or,
I don’t have time to deal with stuff like that”.

I find that B/C Players are usually poison in an organization.  They provide obstacles and make it difficult for A Players to thrive.  Oftentimes, they are poor examples of living the core values.

Leaders MUST deliver the tough feedback message by doing the following 8 things:

  1. Collect examples of behavior through first hand observations and interviews with A Players.
  2. Spend time thinking about how to make your feedback message behavioral (citing the actual behavior).
  3. Schedule a feedback meeting that is formal and structured.
  4. Deliver the feedback directly,  no sugar-coating.
  5. Actively listen to the B/C’s point of view, but don’t waiver from yours.
  6. Be willing to offer coaching.
  7. Get agreement about behavior change and follow up minimally on a monthly basis.
  8. Recognize improvements; stay firm if no improvement.

Leaders have an obligation to the organization and to A Players to deal with difficult people on their teams by having these conversations.

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