When Silence is Painful, Not Golden
Failure to bring up disappointing performance is cruel, not compassionate.
Apart from intervention, negative trajectory accelerates.
When silence is painful, not golden:
Silence when performance disappoints prolongs pain, increases stress, and affirms mediocrity. Eventually, pain increases to the point that it overcomes reluctance to address uncomfortable issues. Wouldn’t it be better to deal with poor performance when disappointment and pain are low?
Poor performance continues until compassion intervenes.
Persistent poor performers:
- Disrespect their own talent and potential.
- Frustrate good performers.
- Increase stress for management.
Work with disappointing performance when:
- There’s a history of strong performance.
- Time and resources for improvement are available.
- Corrective feedback is welcomed with humility.
- Passion to improve is obvious.
- Performance trends upward.
- Reassignment provides opportunity to leverage strengths and compensate for weaknesses.
Poor performance never magically transforms into high performance.
The best thing:
Bring up poor performance when pain is low and negative patterns haven’t congealed.
- “I notice …”
- What do you see?
- How might you be selling yourself short?
- If things continue as they are, where will you be next month?
- What makes you believe things will be different next week?
Let aspiration, not frustration, be the motivation to address poor performance.
- Go with your heart. When things don’t seem right, speak up.
- Work toward positive outcomes. ‘Building strong connections’ is better than ‘not irritating colleagues’.
- Don’t allow one thing to be everything.
- Dig in when it feels easier to turn away.
- Talk things over with a trusted mentor/coach, before bringing them up.
- Add energy to behaviors that work.
- Stop behaviors that don’t work. Success may be as simple as stopping something that doesn’t work while continuing what does.
More of the same isn’t acceptable when people perform below their potential. Compassion speaks up. Silence prolongs pain.
What are your suggestions when performance disappoints?
Create a culture where giving and receiving feedback is the norm.
Thanks Khadijah. Yes!
Dan great post. When I was a young Senior Auditor, we always discussed and evaluated the new rookies. At one such informal sessions two of my peers mentioned that this one very bright, hard working young man had an issue. By the end of a long day, he had body odor.
He was next assigned to work for me on an out of town job so my peers said I should bring it up to him. Not an easy task for my 25 year old self. At dinner alone one night I did. He grew up in a large family and although he washed daily he had never used body deodorant. He started immediately and within a few years became a Partner in our big public accounting firm! We remained friends for decades.
Thanks Brad. You were a gift to the rookie! Thanks for a great story. You give a new meaning to “you stink.”
Thanks again for another great post. It is one of the hardest things to get supervisors to understand that they are not doing their new or long-time staff favors by “overlooking” behaviors that are unacceptable, hoping they will go away. Your suggested phrasing of “I notice…” and “What do you see?” are great ways to begin the conversation. And I love “Add energy to behaviors that work”
Thanks alice. In a way, it’s a good thing that it’s hard to deliver tough/corrective feedback. If was easy, maybe we would end up being cruel.
Understanding the root cause of this “fear” of sharing feedback is critical. In many cases this is cultural … in many parts of the world it is not customary to share non-positive feedback … we perceive this as “passive aggressive” and it is frustrating … and very painful – whether this is in a business, spousal or family relationship … learning to ask questions about the silence versus casting judgement can extend the relationship …. this may require turn the relationship upside down and perhaps another reason we need to create “coaching cultures” …
Thanks Perspect… You make me think about the importance of clarifying the story we tell ourselves about another person’s behavior. Typically, there’s more to the story than meets the eye.
Thanks for a great post, Dan! I have been reading your blog posts, and this one is one that spoke to me. Aspiration is definitely a great motivator for people to change.
Thanks Victor. It’s a real pleasure to be of service. Thanks for being a reader.
And please, please, please…do not give the high performers the work of the low performers just so it gets done without it being part of a plan to help the low performer improve that you are actually going to hold them to. I see a lot of “well, the work is getting done, so I don’t have to work with the low performer to help them improve” situations.
Thanks Chris. Great point! Beware the danger of “it’s getting done,” so we don’t have to work to develop low performers.
Great post thanks. My suggestion: Define high performance before dissappointment about it becomes a self inflicted injury. Do you have a collective and agreed view of high performance, how is that shared and known. Could clarity and transparency be its own feedback?
What resonates with me so much about your post is that I work in a hospital. The prevailing view seems, espeically in the care professions, to be Compassion = ‘I can’t say ‘that’ to them, That wouldn’t be caring’. whether that’s to patients, colleagues or direct reports. Silence is a killer of both compassion and dare I say in health care, even people. However Compassion is the key. Talking about the ‘compassion of knowing’ has helped us win over many compassionate managers and healthcare professionals
Warmest regards Adrian