By Rose O. Sherman, EdD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN
A young manager recently told me how much she was dreading a crucial conversation that she needed to have with one of her experienced staff members. The nurse was very disrespectful to her at a staff meeting. It was painful, public moment. The manager exercised a great deal of emotional restraint and chose to do the right thing by telling the nurse that they would discuss her concerns after the meeting. Confronting employees with negative feedback can be uncomfortable, especially for first-time managers. Emotions in these meetings tend to run high. That is why I always advise managers to carefully plan out the conversations in advance so they stay on track. William Gentry developed a 3 step feedback model for the Center for Creative leadership that would be useful in this situation.
Step 1 – Describe the situation
In the case scenario above, the manager would refrain from discussing what the nurse may have done in other situations and stick to this particular staff meeting. She might open with – “we are here to talk about what happened at the staff meeting last Thursday“.
Step 2 – Describe the behavior
The manager would then next describe the actual, observable behavior being discussed. Keep to the facts. Don’t insert opinions or judgments. She might say “you interrupted me several times and raised your voice“. It is very important to keep it as specific as possible – not “you were very rude” which is open to interpretation.
Step 3 – Describe the impact
The manager then describes the impact that the behavior had both on her and the group. She might say, “it might not have been your intent but you interrupted the flow of the meeting and made it uncomfortable for me to continue with the agenda”.
It is then important to move into the next phase of the conversation where you acknowledge what the individual brings to the team. The manager might say, “I am giving you these comments because you are a valued member of this team and I depend on your support – what can we do to fix this?” Helping this nurse to come up with a different strategy to manage her concerns (other than being passive aggressive) can help to establish a plan moving forward. When you see an improvement in behavior – reinforce it. This strategy may not work in all cases but it is a good starting point and gives the employee the benefit of the doubt in terms of their intent.
Read to Lead
Gentry, W. (2016). Be the boss everyone wants to work for: A guide for new leaders. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
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