Who Will Think Highly of You?

I had a situation at work yesterday where I had to do something uncomfortable. Long story short, I had to give some hard feedback on someone’s performance. I don’t think anyone truly likes doing this, but it’s a part of the job. It’s also something that I really struggled with when I was new to managing a team. If I’m totally honest, it’s still something that I could be better at.

As a manager, you have to do this. What good is a manager who doesn’t tell people when they’re doing the wrong thing? How can someone get better if they aren’t given direction? So we grit our teeth and do it. The more time goes on, the easier it is for me to get it done, and to do it in a way that helps everyone.

If you also don’t like to give negative feedback, here’s two tips that help me get over this mental hold up:

First, remember that you cannot always make everyone happy. It’s nearly impossible to always be on everyone’s good side, so you have to choose who you want to think highly of you. If you go through with giving the feedback, that person is likely going to feel bad and like you a little less[1]. If you do the more comfortable thing and ignore the problem and hope it goes away, you’re peers and you boss will not be impressed. Who do you care more about thinking highly of you: your boss or the person doing something that makes you look bad? It may feel better in the moment to just “let it slide,” but in the long run, you your peers and your boss to know that you’re managing your team well.

And second, giving someone negative feedback doesn’t have to be all negative. The corporate wording we use is “coaching,” and while that does sound like a word made up to soften what is actually being done, I think it’s apt. If your strategy going into a feedback session is to beat someone down with what they’re doing wrong, then you’re not managing well. Your job as a manager is to deliver clear communication that tells someone what they’re doing wrong, asks why it’s happening, and helps them come up with a solution to make sure you get on the right track. It’s important to come out and say “this is what you’re doing wrong” but it’s just as important to also ask “how can I help you succeed going forward?”

The great news is that if you do your job well and you give good, constructive feedback to your team, they’ll love you for it. Your boss with be happy that you’re holding your team accountable, your peers will respect you for being a great partner, and your team will respect you for holding everyone to the same standard. And if you do everything right and they don’t take it well, then maybe that’s someone you don’t want on your team in the first place.

So remember that the next time you are in this spot. It may be uncomfortable and it may be hard, but you have every reason to do it, You’ll be thankful in the long run.


  1. In the moment, at least.  ↩