Warning: You're Losing Staff by Not Using Written Feedback

Why is it that we struggle to handle under performing staff members in the church? Honestly, I think it’s fear. We fear that we are creating a cold/corporate organization. We fear being seen as transactional by our staff. We fear damaging the relationships we’ve cultivated.

But the unfortunate truth is that when we fail to appropriately manage underperforming staff we alienate two key groups of people.

First, we fail to allow the under performer to correct their work. When we are not crystal clear with our expectations most staff will fail at implementing your feedback.

Second, we allow an under performing culture to take hold and begin to repel high achievers. These top performers eventually get tired of picking up the slack and look for work elsewhere.

For most of my working life I had never fired someone, so when I had the opportunity to sit in on a "feedback" conversation I felt I had a responsibility to do so. What I watched was unsettling.

The supervisor was attempting to advise his employee that their performance up to this point was not enough to warrant their continued employment. The problem was he wasn't being clear. He was alluding to the fact that the employee’s performance needed to change, but he wasn't being clear about it what he was frustrated with or what he expected to change. He mentioned that the employee had to improve in a couple of areas, but nothing was really that specific.

The employee on the other hand saw the meeting completely differently. They understood that their boss was upset about something and agreed that they could improve. But they had no idea what their boss actually wanted.  In reality he was making every effort to finish this conversation and escape the uncomfortable situation.

When the meeting was over I asked the supervisor if they thought the employee understood what had happen here. They were adamant that the employee understood that their behavior needed to change or they would be fired.

I was pretty sure the employee had no idea.

When it comes to serious feedback, both parties rarely hear the same thing.

When it comes to serious feedback, both parties rarely hear the same thing.
— StevenJBarker

Feedback is an important part of a healthy effective team, but what’s most important is that this feedback is incredibly clear. It doesn’t have to be harsh, it doesn’t even have to be drastic, but it does need to be clear.

Here are two tips help keep staff when giving feedback:

1. Face to face, first.

If you feel like your team member is moving from being a good performer to an under performer that is feedback that should always be delivered in a 1:1 meeting. If you were my boss, I would want to know that you were seeing a change in my performance and I would want to have a conversation about it.

Plus, more than anything, we don't want to discipline them into succeeding, we want to equip them to succeed. 

2. Summary, second.

Because we assume that our employee understood exactly what we said, we convince ourselves that followup isn’t necessary….but it is. Especially when you are dealing with something like employment, your employee deserves to know exactly what you mean and what you expect.

This can be as simple as a follow up email, written by either you or your employee, or it can be as formal as a written discipline.

Delivering feedback well is an important skill to develop. Don’t assume you and your team are on the same page, verify you are. You both deserve it.