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This is the last article of a six part series about how to give an employee feedback.  The information I’ve provided has given you the ideas and techniques you need to give feedback so it leads to improved performance.

But maybe you’re still anxious.  Or maybe you’re steaming mad that this employees is causing you so much extra time and energy.

Being calm while doing all the things you’ve learned is essential.  If you’re not, things can go downhill very fast.

Easier said than done, you say? I’m going to share three easy methods that will be useful in any situation that produces negative emotions such as anxiety, fear or anger.

Practice Gives Confidence

What’s really at the heart of being calm is confidence.  Confidence in our ability to handle the situation.  Rereading everything covered in this blog series gives you the intellectual knowledge about how to best approach the situation.  However, your confidence will take a giant leap up when you move from knowing to doing.

Because most of us shy away from being honest with each other about our performance in many areas of life, we don’t get a lot of experience giving feedback.

Therefore, the first method is to take what you’ve learned and begin to practice it.  Practice with a peer supervisor pretending to be an employee.  Practice in front of a mirror.  Run through the meeting in your mind.

Then use real life to practice. Try some of the skills out on one of your star employees who has one or two technical areas to work on.  Try it out on your family members.  Look for opportunities you have to give constructive, not destructive, feedback.

Difficult conversations become easier with practice. But don’t use needing more practice as an excuse to hold off on having the conversation.  Giving feedback promptly is most effective and only fair to the employee.  Putting it off will only give you a new worry…that you’ve waited too long!

Focus on the Other Person

No matter how uncomfortable you are, the employee who has to absorb your feedback is likely ten times more nervous!

After all, you’re in control of the meeting.  You know what you’re going to say.  The employee likely suspect it’s nothing good, but doesn’t know exactly what the topic of the meeting is or what the results of the meeting are going to be.  Nothing is scarier than the unknown.

So, the second method is to focus on putting the other person at ease and make him/her feel comfortable.  Just as helping others makes you forget, at least for the moment, about your own troubles, this technique works wonders for calming nerves!

If the person gets defensive, cut him/her some slack. Don’t immediately assume that the person is argumentative and unwilling to change.  And definitely don’t respond with an emotionally-based reaction of your own.

Instead focus on how you can ensure the person feels heard, understood and cared for.

Find Your Happy Place

The third method to deal with your uncomfortable feeling is to utilize negative emotional coping techniques.

Some can be used in the days and hours before you meet with the employee.  Things such as taking a walk, listening to relaxing music, visualizing either a calming place or the meeting going just as you planned and meditating can all be helpful in keeping  you calm.  Treat yourself well leading up to the meeting; this is hard emotional work!

Often the time we need techniques most is in the moments just before and as we begin the conversation.  I find that slowing my breathing is very helpful.  I learned to do this in yoga class, so this may sound familiar to fellow yogis.

It’s as simple as noticing the cooling of your nostrils as you breathe in through them and the slight warming of them as you breathe out.  Try to notice the point you are finished inhaling and ready to exhale; pause slightly.  Then do the same when you’re finished exhaling and ready to breathe in again.

It’s pretty much impossible to put this level of attention on your breath without slowing it down.  And when your breath slows, so does your heart rate.  More oxygen gets to your brain.  Your thinking clears. Your emotions calm.  You’re totally in the moment.

As a final step, relax your neck and shoulders and imagine your heart opening up or expanding.  When you are open, you are calm.  When you are calm, you will have a calming effect on those around you.

Be a Humanitarian

Dealing with performance issues head-on is not only your responsibility as a supervisor and makes good business sense from a results standpoint; it’s also the humane way to treat another person.

What happens when issues aren’t addressed directly is that a supervisor’s anger will come out and they will treat the employee negatively.  Then one day they’ll become so frustrated that the employee isn’t performing as expected, they will fire the person who will feel like it came from out of the blue.

Tell employees where the gap is between what they’re doing and what the organization needs them to do, help them identify ways to close the gap and give them the tools to do it.

If in the end they can’t or don’t want to do the job, the position isn’t right for them and it’s time to part ways.  In my experience, employees often come to that conclusion before the supervisor does and decide to seek opportunities elsewhere.

After the employment relationship ends, you’ll sleep better at night knowing you were clear, engaged, kind, supportive and calm and you gave them a chance to change.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and personal experiences! Please post them below.

Check back over the coming weeks as I continue to explore other supervisory and human resources topics!

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