From that guy you avoid sitting next to in meetings to the inappropriate dresser to the chatterbox who always gives "TMI" - too much information - the office can be a challenging environment to work in.
Don't get me wrong, everyone has their off days. However, when certain types of behavior continually occur, they can start to affect an employee's career and as a manager, you need to step in.
I was surprised how many CEOs I interviewed for my company Radiate told me about awkward conversations they had to have with their team members about personal issues like body odor or dress code. The universal piece of advice I got was to deliver the feedback from a good place - you're trying to help the employee and this personal issue is holding them back. You're not trying to make them uncomfortable or embarrassed. And most of all, give the feedback in private!
There's no cookie cutter formula when it comes to talking about sensitive issues, but some top CEOs have given us their best strategies:
- Levo Founder and CEO Caroline Ghosn says the way to deliver sensitive feedback is "just focusing on the issue and what the impact of the issue is, and then quickly bridging to what the behavior is that you want to see." And the easiest way to do this? "Instead of saying things like 'you'... just really do your best to de-personalize it and the person will be able to feel safe in that conversation and actually hear the feedback, instead of getting ready to defend themselves."
- FOCUS Brands Group President Kat Cole uses a three-step system for delivering difficult feedback to employees. "One, empathy. If it were me, what would I want? Two, that it's my job to deliver feedback, and if I don't, who will? And three, to always deliver with a deep degree of care and concern, putting the person first." One phrase that Kat uses while issuing difficult feedback is "I would be failing you if I didn't tell you this..."
- PwC Partner and Business Development Leader Mitch Roschelle recommends confronting the issue head on. "Just talk to the person and explain to them that this is a problem. Share with them sort of empathetically how uncomfortable you are having to have that conversation in that moment. I think there's going to be a whole bunch of awkward in the room. But I think at the end of the conversation, I would assume that that person's going to be so appreciative that someone told them that nugget, because it's really interfering with progress in their career."
In the short term, this feedback may hurt, but as a manager and leader, you have a longer-term responsibility to your staff. An overwhelming amount of CEOs that I spoke to have told me that employees have thanked them for the feedback they were given, if not immediately but some time after (probably after the awkwardness had worn off!).