Feedback as Partnering

Gina was frustrated with one of her employees. The employee, Tim, was ordinarily reliable and good at his job. In January Tim was given a big new project that had features that were unlike anything he had done in his job before. Gina had expected Tim to be able to jump right into the new project and was surprised and disappointed to find that he did not seem to have a firm grasp on some of the new elements.

Gina felt that she had a good working relationship with Tim but, in the past had never needed to give him negative feedback. Gina started to worry that the project was not going to be completed and that it was going to reflect negatively on her from the point of view of her bosses. She directed her panic toward Tim and constantly demanded status reports and better results which simply made Tim even more overwhelmed causing a further decrease in the quality of his work.

Gina needed to look at this situation as a problem on both sides, not just a problem with Tim. Gina was disappointed with Tim for not figuring out his new tasks fast enough but Tim was frustrated that Gina had not given him more guidance and training in this role.

Once Gina recognized that dynamic, she realized that a shared problem was going to require a shared solution. Instead of admonishing him, Gina sat Tim down for a conversation in which she admitted that she was worried that “our” project was not going to have the results “our” team wants to show the rest of the company.

By showing that she viewed the project as “our” project instead of Tim’s project she was able to put herself and Tim on the same side of the problem. From there, she proposed ways that both of them could start to solve it. Gina outlined several tasks that Tim already had in his wheelhouse, broke down several others to show him that he actually already had the skills to complete them, and helped him to delegate the rest.

In the end, the project was completed satisfactorily, Tim gained several new skills that translated well into his future efforts, and he and Gina retained a productive working relationship.

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