Providing Feedback You Disagree With

Justin Reidy

Group Product Lead at Loom



"I had a high performing direct report who, as part of our career process, was calibrated by the organization to receive a lower review than I had recommended. I knew my report would be extremely disappointed to hear this, especially given all of the hard work they had done. I was faced with presenting him with a rating I didn't agree with in a way that would mitigate my direct report's disappointment and would inspire him to do even better, despite already doing really well."

Actions taken

The first thing I needed to do was to adjust my own mindset - I needed to disagree and commit to the overall rating that the rest of the organization had come up with. I then looked for two specific things. Firstly, I looked at all of the positive things the report had done over the course of their review period. Secondly, I looked for ideas so they could deliver work that would address the direct feedback they had gotten from their review process. I was then able to go into the review with my report and could talk him through where he was marked down, how he felt about it, and then talk about what we could do to address his areas of (perceived) weakness. Giving him room to experience his frustrations but quickly providing suggestions after this to focus him on future outcomes really helped. While there was very definite frustration and anger at first, following a week or two of follow-on discussions and one-on-ones the direct report started focussing on the next review period. They absolutely crushed it, and their next review was calibrated even higher than I had recommended.

Lessons learned

"This is a great example of how even when you are presented with an organizational decision with which you disagree, if you react to it in the right way you can end up with an ultimately positive result." "Always give people enough room to have emotional responses and for them to work through things. Often, as a manager, you have had enough time to work through everything in your own head. However, when you are delivering bad news, your direct report hasn't had that same time, so you'll need to give them the space to process what they're hearing before rushing to next steps. It's okay for people to be angry and upset and for them to be heard, but you need to be careful to acknowledge it without joining in with it."

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Justin Reidy

Group Product Lead at Loom

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