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CareerThere comes a time in the life of every line manager and employee when that ‘little chat’ must be had, which can sometimes be very unpleasant for both parties. So what can we do?

First, we need to understand the common traps line managers fall into. These are usually in the broad areas of avoidance and not wanting to be the bad guy. Failure to speak up when the issue is current usually means we are trying to either buy time or hope the problem will take care of itself. We also don’t want to be the bearers of bad news and try to couch our feedback with vague language or ascribe negative observations to others.

There was a time when ‘sandwich’ feedback – i.e. say something positive, then give the negative message and close with something positive again – was frowned upon. It was believed that this approach was confusing. Now, however, the sandwich approach is recommended to maintain the self-esteem of the receiver.

Here are three common mistakes to avoid:

1. We fall into ‘combat mentality’ by personalising the conversation. Avoid the use of ‘you’ and ‘I’ and stick to the facts and issues. Try and keep your ego out of it (easier said than done).

2. We don’t bring enough respect to the conversation. As the person giving the feedback, we must be mindful to avoid being nasty. As the recipient, we must assume ‘best intentions’ from the person providing the feedback. Trying to second guess any underlying motives will only add mistrust to the conversation.

3. Respond to the issues on the table and avoid bringing up extraneous events and conjecture. As the recipient, never ever point out what others are doing in circumstances similar to yours. Instead, ask how the line manager would handle the situation himself.

At the end of the conversation, be polite, sincere and agree on follow-up actions. Needless to say, respect and maturity is required on both sides as is the need to keep focused on the goal.

– Leon Menezes
The writer is a senior HR practitioner, professor-of-practice and an executive coach.

First published in the Careers Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on March 29, 2015.