How Leaders Unnecessarily Elevate Their Own Stress and Frustration

The things you don’t say make your belly hurt.

Leaders cause themselves stress and frustration when they sweep performance concerns under the carpet.



I recently asked a group of leaders, “What makes giving corrective feedback uncomfortable?”

  1. I don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.
  2. What if they don’t follow through? We’ll have the conversation and nothing will change.
  3. Perhaps I’m being too hard on them too soon. Maybe they need more time.
  4. I’m concerned about demotivating them.
  5. I wonder if there might be emotional retaliation.
  6. I won’t have answers to argumentative people.
  7. The person receiving it might hold it against me.
  8. I might make things worse.
  9. They won’t receive it well.
  10. It will damage the relationship.

Join the group:

A majority of leaders want to feel more comfortable giving corrective feedback. About 7% of the last group I asked said they were highly comfortable giving corrective feedback.

3 ways to increase comfort:

I asked the same group, “What would make you more comfortable giving corrective feedback?”

  1. Learn how to deal with nerves.
    1. Roleplay the conversation. Preparation lowers stress.
    2. Map out the conversation.
    3. Stay on topic.
  2. Embrace transparency and vulnerability.
    1. Your shaky voice lets colleagues know it’s difficult. Most respect your commitment to have the conversation, even if it’s uncomfortable.
    2. Own your discomfort. “This conversation makes me feel uncomfortable, but it’s important for you.”
    3. Share a bit of your own journey. Perhaps you have faced similar challenges.
  3. Prepare an opening line.
    1. I’ve noticed ….. The impact of this behavior is ….
    2. I’m concerned about ‘xyz’, and I think we need to discuss it.
    3. I don’t think you’re serving yourself well when …. Let’s talk about it.

Frustration, stress, and gossip go up when leaders hold in their concerns about a team members performance.

Taking action is often less stressful than thinking about it.

What’s your best suggestion for getting more comfortable addressing performance issues with employees?