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Home | Got a Minute | Feedback and performance | No. 84 – How do I tell a staff member to improve when they don’t want to listen?

No. 84 – How do I tell a staff member to improve when they don’t want to listen?

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9 November 2022

I have been in my current role for 15 months. I am new to management and supervise a small team. What tips do you have for getting better at providing feedback? I recently gave some feedback to a team member and the employee refuted everything I said. I’m struggling with wanting to provide feedback versus crawling under a rock and biting my tongue.

Feedback is one of the hardest, but also the most important, skills to master as a leader. It will get easier, I promise, and now that you are a manager I am afraid you don’t get the option to crawl under a rock and bite your tongue.

Next time you have a feedback session, make sure the person you are supervising understands the framework for the meeting ahead of time. Let them know you would like this session to be focused on them – what they need to excel in their role and what you need from them. In the meeting, ask them how they think they are going. Use open-ended questions to see if they can offer up areas they might be struggling in. You can use questions as a starting point to provide the feedback you would like them to work on.

If the person starts refuting everything you are saying, that is a moment for you to calmly, but firmly, make clear those explanations have not been your experience. Come to the meeting prepared with all your points and have some tangible examples to offer. If the person continues to be argumentative, you may well have uncovered a bigger performance issue you are going to need to tackle. The staff you are leading need you to provide feedback – especially where you have underperformers – so seek some advice from other managers in your team if need be.

In my role I am required to work on a Saturday. My employer chooses to close early sometimes on that day, as they rent out the space to other users, which means I cannot complete my normal weekly hours. As I am paid by the hour, my income is reduced according to how many hours I lose. My employer just tells me to make it up in the week following by staying back late. However, I have a young child and staying back turns an eight-hour day into 10 or 12 hours, and I am not paid overtime. If I choose not to stay back, I am not paid for those hours. How do I say to them this is not OK?

If your boss chooses to close early, that is not something that should come at a cost (in either time or money) to you and especially when you have “normal weekly hours.” Have you tried talking to your boss about the implications of the early closure and their assumption you can simply make them up during the week?

Otherwise, you might want to see if you can move onto a different contract arrangement where you are paid for a set number of hours (with your actual working hours clearly stated). This way if your boss decides to close early on any of your days, for whatever reason, it is not deducted from your pay. Or, you can ask for overtime to be paid on any hours beyond usual closing time. Either way, it sounds like a conversation to explain your predicament is needed with your boss.

I had a suicide attempt a few years ago and at my full performance review (held about eight weeks later) it was determined that I did not meet expectations for my role for the time leading up to and including my attempt. I was then put on a performance review plan. I decided to leave the company, then regretted my decision because I wasn’t thinking straight and tried to be rehired, but HR eventually told me to stop applying as the company would not hire me back. I have not held a steady job since and have had another suicide attempt. The events at my previous employer have 100 per cent affected my confidence and mental state. Surely, this was not legal or ethical? Is there anything I do?

I am sorry to hear you have had such a difficult time and to read your employer was far less than compassionate and understanding about all you were going through. First, I hope you are receiving ongoing support now for your mental health. Please be sure to contact your GP or call Lifeline on 13 11 14 any time. As you no doubt understand better than most, it really is your most important priority.

Once you feel able, you might like to speak with the Fair Work Ombudsman for free advice on your options. If you belong to a union, you can also speak with them about what your rights might be in your particular situation. Please take care of yourself and be sure to gather those around you who can help support you through this time.

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