Startling statistics indicate we spend more time with our co-workers than our spouses, significant others, or family.
Given how much time we’re at work and the reliance we have on our coworkers, inevitably situations go sideways. Someone drops the ball, breaks a rule, steps over a boundary, or just plain behaves badly.
We feel discomfort when giving our co-workers feedback—it ranks right up there with public speaking for some—so we tend to avoid it.
But failure to deal with bad behavior creates a toxic work environment, breaks down teamwork, and gives power where it doesn’t belong.
Consider these steps to carry you through a feedback session and come out feeling good afterward:
► Plan ahead. Take a few minutes to write down what happened or what was said. Think about the exact words used, tone of voice, and situation in detail. Share specific words or actions. This gives the other person a clear picture of what happened. Then write down how the situation made you or others feel. Sharing the impact of someone’s actions can encourage them to change their behavior and think differently about future situations.
► Ask for time. Don’t surprise your coworker. Let them know you’d like to meet for 10 minutes to discuss a recent situation. Then, find a private spot to talk. Schedule a meeting room or go somewhere you won’t be interrupted.
► Be specfic. Start with the context for the conversation and use the information you wrote down to get to the point. Don’t beat around the bush or sugarcoat the message. Direct and polite always wins.
Consider this example: “In yesterday’s staff meeting, when I was sharing an idea for making more referrals (context), you interrupted me before I finished and said, ‘That will never work with our members,’ and then started to share your ideas (specific words and actions). When you do that, you tell others that you don’t respect my ideas, and make me feel less credible (outcome).”
When making your point, avoid judgmental or absolute statements, such as “You always interrupt” or “You never let me finish.” These accusatory statements likely will put the other person on the defensive.
► Give them a chance. Every story has two sides. Give your co-worker a chance to explain, or potentially apologize. Be gracious and listen.
► Move on. Once you’ve laid out the issue, think of the future. This person can’t go back and change what happened—they can only do better next time. Ask for their ideas on how they’d better handle a similar situation and come to agreement on a plan.
► Say thank you. Thank your co-worker for listening to your concerns and being open to change. This shows you’re letting go of the issue and are confident in their professionalism.
By taking time to prepare, being specific, and staying future-focused, you can have effective feedback sessions with your co-workers. This approach also demonstrates that you care about your working relationships and aren’t afraid to address issues that could compromise the work environment—the marks of a great teammate.
CARLA SCHRINNER is implementation manager and senior master trainer for CUNA’s Creating Member Loyalty™ (CML) program. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.