Handling negative responses

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  2. Performance management
  3. Handling negative responses

If you manage others, at some point you will have to have a difficult performance discussion. Difficult conversations can provoke emotional responses, and when emotions run high, it can become difficult to make any forward progress if you don't manage the situation correctly.

Instead of a constructive conversation focused on problem solving, it can quickly descend into blaming and personal attacks - and that is not a good place to be.

Tips for handling negative responses

Here are some tips for handling negative responses and keeping the conversation on track.

  • Stay calm - Never lose your cool, it’s counterproductive. That doesn't mean you can't be stern and assert yourself, just don't let your emotions get the better of you.
  • Listen and show empathy - Often people just want to be heard and understood. Let the person speak and confirm what you've heard to show that you understand e.g. "So John delivered the work late to you. I can see how that would be frustrating". It will help them to calm down and give you a good understanding of the issues that you need to address to move things forward. This concept is explored further below.
  • Focus on the problem - When you talk about a problem, you talk about the facts e.g. "your work was delivered late." When you talk about a person, you talk about personal opinions e.g. "you don't work hard enough" which encourages negative emotional responses. Keep the conversation focused on the problem not the person.
  • Accept responsibility - Be prepared to take what comes back at you. If you are given some feedback during the conversation, don’t dodge it, explore it further and try to get to the root of the issue.

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