As HR practitioners and managers well know, providing negative feedback to employees is simply part of the job. The alternative – letting performance issues or problem employees fester – is a surefire way to hurt productivity and morale. When it comes time to have that talk there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, be honest and don’t sugarcoat the problem. By trusting employees enough to give them the “real deal,” you signal respect. Equally important, you avoid the “but you told me I was doing great” encounter later on, which is rife with legal risks.

Second, watch your tone. Research shows that when we communicate with one another, only 7% of the message is conveyed by our words. That means everything else – from body language to tone of voice – accounts for 93% of the message! So be respectful and speak in a manner that conveys you are trying to help the employee overcome the issue at hand.

Finally, document the meeting. Include the reason for the meeting, the time and place, what was discussed, and how the meeting concluded (e.g., “John and I discussed that he will work hard over the next thirty days to improve his production statistics”). By approaching employee issues with honesty, integrity and respect, you are far more likely to turn a negative situation around than to end up in court.

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