Ken Dolan-Del Vecchio, Keynote Speaker on Workplace Mental Health (and Other Touchy Subjects), Author, President, GreenGate Leadership®

Earlier this week, a friend told me about an employee who had joined his company six months earlier and “can’t seem to get her act together.” During the past month alone, this employee (let’s call her Sheila) had to make extensive corrections on three documents that she had assured the team were ready to give to external clients. In each case her last-minute revisions forced others to drop everything and redo their own work. Each time this happened my friend and his colleagues made it clear to Sheila that they were not happy. Finally, they approached Sheila’s boss, who gave them a sigh and “I’ll speak with her when this crunch time is over.”

Giving performance feedback can be uncomfortable, but when we put it off:

  • The problem continues and, in most cases, gets worse.
  • The employee goes without the guidance and support that may help them improve.
  • The employee either adds to their negative reputation or begins to develop one.
  • You, the employee’s supervisor, look weak and ineffective as a leader. Thus, your own reputation suffers.
  • Morale and productivity may decline, launching a negative spiral in which some team members:

    – Feel less positive about you, their team, and the organization.
    – Adopt a “why bother” attitude when it comes to their own work.
    – Decide that you are playing favorites: “Sheila can get away with anything!”
    – Make disparaging comments about and/or make fun of the employee (and you).
    – Eventually and this applies more to your most effective, confident team members, i.e. your strongest contributorsdecide to look elsewhere for employment.

I’m sure you can name more negative effects as well.

While giving constructive feedback may not feel comfortable, delivering it can be the starting point for great improvement. Avoidance serves nobody’s interest.

The solution: Recognize performance feedback as a gift that can help the recipient succeed and deliver it with that spirit. And there’s a crucial ingredient that makes your feedback more likely to be received in this way. That essential factor is a positive relationship. If the person on the receiving end has consistently felt respected, valued and treated with some degree of human caring they will be primed to receive your feedback as the gift you want it to be. If, on the other hand, they have experienced you as disrespectful, devaluing and uncaring, they will be primed to see your feedback as more of the same.

Key Points:

  • Letting a performance problem continue benefits nobody.
  • See performance feedback as a gift designed to help the recipient improve their work.
  • Deliver it with this spirit.
  • Know that the way you treat others every day matters greatly.

This article was originally published August 3, 2018, on LinkedIn. Reprinted with permission.

Ken Dolan-Del Vecchio is an award-winning leader, keynote speaker, author and family therapist. His books include Simple Habits of Exceptional (But Not Perfect) Parents, The Pet Loss Companion: Healing Advice from Family Therapists Who Lead Pet Loss Groups, and Making Love, Playing Power: Men, Women, and the Rewards of Intimate Justice. Ken founded GreenGate Leadership® after retiring from his role as Vice President, Health and Wellness, at Prudential, where he was responsible for behavioral health services for the company’s 20,000 U.S. employees. Ken’s team at Prudential led the firm to receive the American Psychological Association’s 2017 Award for Organizational Excellence. He was selected by the Employee Assistance Society of North America (EASNA) as the organization’s 2017 Leadership Award honoree. In 2016, Ken was named Corporate Leader of the Year by the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ NYC Metro Chapter. Learn more at