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Ask Dan
Some of my staff resist negative feedback. Is there a better way to communicate when they're doing poorly?
People are more receptive to an assessment from someone who demonstrates fairness by soliciting their perspective, and then offering constructive criticism. The key is to show your crew you're genuinely interested in how they perceived a given project.

So the next time you evaluate staffers' performance, engage them using four main questions. Start the process by asking, "How do you think you generally did on that last assignment?" After they respond, sharpen the question by asking, "What three things did you like best about your performance?" When you have the positives in hand, then inquire, "What three things did you like least?" Finally, ask them the fourth question, "What would you do differently if you were to do that again?"

Once they finish, summarize the things they liked best and least. Make your own additions to that list, along with suggestions on what they could do differently the next time they face the same or similar task. This kind of dialogue shows that you're fair enough to understand the difficulties of their job, and also willing to recognize the parts they executed well. When you take this approach, you make it easier for them to accept criticisms and improve their performance. As the advice columnist Miss Manners once said, "When virtues are pointed out first, flaws seem less insurmountable."

Dan Lumpkin, organizational psychologist, is the president of management-consulting company Lumpkin & Associates in Fairhope, AL. Need answers? Email your career-related questions to askdan@exhibitormagazine.com.
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