How to Deliver the Cold, Hard Truth – Diplomatically


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Lawyer Coaching Master the Art of Giving Feedback

Feedback and performance reviews are valuable tools in the legal field, but so often they are never given because the person responsible for the review is just too uncomfortable with the process. Believe me, I get it. It's difficult to tell a person what he or she is doing wrong.

As tough as the feedback process is, there is a right and wrong way to do it. Reviewers need to aim at giving positive input, or opportunities to correct behaviors.  General comments about “good” or “bad” behavior, or about our character, are never useful for genuine feedback - ever.

Also read: Conquer the Fear of Asking for Constructive Criticism

Here are three ways to make giving feedback more valuable and painless:

1. Adjust your behavioral style

If you are too assertive and direct, you may come across as overbearing. Conversely, if you are more timid and mild-mannered, then you won't be heard. Try to modify your communication approach to suit the listener's personality so he or she will really hear what you have to say.

2. Make sure you are giving YOUR OPINION, not someone else's.

It's a terrible to hear that someone may be talking behind your back, so never use the "third party" tactic during a performance review. For instance, do not say,  “A person in our firm said you were very difficult to work with.” Be sure when you give feedback that it is your opinion and you are the observer of the behavior. If someone else is tattling on you, let that person be the one to offer the feedback instead.

3. Don't force behavior.

No one is going to perform just like you, so it is never "your way or the highway." Be sure you are giving the person a way to be successful, on their own terms. Examples of different approaches can be helpful here, or maybe offering another viewpoint.

Conclusion: Don't adhere to the philosophy that as long as someone is doing the job, there is no need to discuss their performance. Pay that person a compliment. Pat him or her on the back. Give that person the recognition he or she deserves. If there were a few hiccups in work performance, then give that person an opportunity to improve - diplomatically, of course.


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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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