Honesty really is best workplace policy

Janet Arrowood

How do you talk to an employee about his or her shortcomings? Do you provide honest performance reviews? Do you offer praise when warranted and constructive criticism when needed?

Performance reviews and candor go hand in hand, but candor also has a place in everyday interactions in the workplace. At the same time, though, making candor part of company culture isn’t a license to attack or belittle employees or management.

Why is candor so important? Why is it so difficult to do or respond to appropriately?
If well-reasoned and planned, candor provides employees — and management, too — with the information, examples, reasons and tools needed to change and improve.

Here are four tips to ensure you conduct candid conversations and performance reviews:

Put it in writing. Seek out employee suggestions in writing. Organize your feedback in writing. Keep these notes with you when it’s time to have that candid conversation. Putting agreements and discussion points in writing keeps you on track, ensures the conversation is free of drama and increases the likelihood the person on the other end of the conversation receives useful feedback and criticism.

Don’t stint on the praise for and recognition of a person’s accomplishments and contributions. One technique to convey unpleasant information is to sandwich it between two positive statements. While a useful approach in some situations, this sugar coating could detract from important information. Use it with caution.

Keep emotions out of the conversation. State “I or we believe …” rather than “I or we feel…”

Thank others for allowing you to speak candidly and invite them to respond in kind. To increase the likelihood their responses aren’t overly emotional, suggest they go back to their space to think about — and then write down — their responses. Then reconvene to continue the candid conversation.

Candor is especially important in the leadup to performance reviews. Your employees shouldn’t be surprised by their reviews.Regular goal-setting and candid feedback about their progress to reach these goals — documented in writing  — eliminates surprises and gives people milestones and measures to objectively measure their progress and accomplishments as well as their shortcomings.

Candid conversations aren’t passive aggressive. They don’t focus on failures and shortcomings. These conversations aren’t an excuse to attack someone on personal or professional levels.

Many people have a difficult time looking at themselves and their performances objectively. They can’t focus on their own weaknesses and need help identifying their areas of weakness and creating a plan to address and improve those areas.

Candid conversations based on a written list of points could constitute the most valuable thing you do for your employees, your company and yourself.