Managing Reactions Constructively

If the employee becomes defensive or angry:

  • Stay calm and centered. Do not match their emotion.
  • Listen to what the employee has to say and paraphrase back.
  • Ask open-ended questions to seek understanding ("Tell me more?" "How did you reach that conclusion?")
  • Avoid power struggles. You may not come to complete agreement.
  • Bring discussion and focus back to performance and standards.
  • Provide specific examples to support your feedback.
  • If the person does not calm, you may need to take a break and resume at a set time.
  • Don’t apologize or minimize your feedback. Use the facts to back up your assessment.

If the employee is unresponsive or withdraws:

  • Be patient and friendly.
  • Show concern.
  • Ask open-ended questions.
  • Stay silent, and wait for the employee to say something.
  • Note that the employee is unresponsive and ask a related question (“I’m wondering what you’re thinking?”).
  • Tell the employee that his or her input is important to you.
  • Ask if the employee would like a brief amount of time to process the information before discussing (later that day or the next day).
  • Let the employee know the process will move forward whether or not they respond.
  • Don’t apologize or minimize your feedback. Use the facts to back up your assessment.