When People Consistently Drop The Ball or Act Badly

We all sometimes make mistakes or do things in a less-than-helpful way (e.g. late, surly, or sloppily). We typically forgive each other, forget, and move on. When someone makes the same mistake or acts poorly yet again, we call them on it then discuss solutions so they don’t do it again.

But when they keep doing it wrong or poorly, we need to change tacks. It is no longer about the task or how they do it; continuing to call them on it won’t work. Now we must address the way they react to feedback, (perceived) criticism, or (perceived) conflict. These meta-level problems include not taking the feedback seriously, getting too defensive, rudeness, attack, feigning insult, feigning helplessness, agreeing to change but never following through, trying to confuse, trying to shift blame, etc.

The best method for addressing any of these meta-level problems is to name it, show how it damages things, and ask for either specific changes or negotiations to find specific changes. Do this privately in a separate, calm meeting. It should not be during or immediately after any emotionally charged situations. (Consider include someone from HR or a peer of yours in this meeting as a mostly neutral party.)

Use this whenever people consistently drop the ball or act badly.


In your corner,


PS: Example 1: “It seems that whenever I give you negative feedback, you withdraw. I then get worried about you personally and about your ability to follow through on your work. Would you be willing to be more open to negative feedback so we can work better together and you can advance your career skills more quickly?”

Example 2: “I notice that whenever I ask you to focus on a set of priorities, you say yes then fail to deliver them. [pause] When this happens, the rest of the team gets worried because they can’t make their commitments. Would you be willing to work with me to come up with ways of working  together better so that you can follow through on your priorities?”


Today’s photo credit: Mike McBride cc

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