Preventing Performance Review Rage

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Last week, a NASA employee killed a co-worker after receiving negative feedback on his performance from his supervisor. "This tragedy might have been avoided," says Janelle Brittain, MBA, CSP, performance management expert and co-author of "How to Say It Performance Reviews: Phrases and Strategies for Painless and Productive Performance Reviews." "Managers have the responsibility to improve their staff's performance, but HOW the message is delivered is as important as the message itself."

Giving negative feedback is often avoided by managers because they are afraid of any emotional reaction to the news. Perhaps that's why some managers have taken to emailing the bad news. As the NASA case shows, that does not avoid causing rage.

"Because every person is different, thought needs to be put into how you deliver the bad news," says Brittain, who trains managers HOW to deliver the feedback. "If the goal is to motivate the person to take ownership for making a change, then some finesse and caring needs to be used with the message."

Hearing negative feedback is difficult for most everyone. Our defenses are up. Depending on other factors in a person's life, the timing of the negative feedback can be the final straw. It doesn't make any difference if the person is usually quiet and withdrawn or an emotive responder. Negative feedback can light the powder keg within each of us.

Brittain advocates that the supervisor focus on Six Standards of Responsible Feedback Communication:

1.    Be Supportive: Adversarial communication derails the message.
2.    Be Individualized: Avoid labels that put your employees in boxes.
3.    Be Respectful: Avoid exaggeration, sarcasm or threats.
4.    Be Objective: Address the problem, not attack the person.
5.    Be Consistent: Give ongoing communication throughout the year.
6.    Be Specific: Support your conclusions with examples.

For additional information or an interview on how managers can finesse their feedback contact Janelle Brittain at 773-262-8686, Janelle(at) or visit her website:

About Janelle Brittain, MBA, Certified Speaking Professional
Janelle Brittain has thirty years of business experience in management, marketing, and sales in high-tech and healthcare. As an internationally known consultant, trainer, speaker and facilitator, she has advised Fortune 100 companies, as well as hot entrepreneurial companies in performance management, team building, managing change, developing management and executive coaching.


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