“Surprise results from lack of confrontation”

I was talking to one of my close friends (and a business owner) and he had recently conducted annual employee reviews.  He was taken off guard by one of the employees who completely denied the need for improvement in a certain area, and also denied that anything was wrong with her performance.  She even said “If it was an issue, why have you waited for a year to bring it up”?  My friend was looking for advice of how to handle this issue and I gave the following feedback:

  1. Never avoid confrontation – the issue had been known for the better part of a year.  The employee was right to be taken off guard by the negative feedback. 
  2. Their leadership team has to get better with confrontation, or they should hold reviews more than once a year which will force them to face confrontation more frequently as an organization.
  3. Change performance reviews to include goal setting and review.  It is much more effective if employees are held accountable for the goals they set, rather than reprimanding them for expectations that were never clearly defined.

One of two things happens when we avoid confrontation.  Either we, or the person we delay to confront, will be surprised.  They will be surprised that there is an issue and will likely disagree, or we will be surprised when the results which they are held accountable for are poor, due to avoiding the confrontation that is necessary to get back on the right track.  With an employee situation, lack of confrontation can lead to terminating someone and if it is a surprise to them, we have not done our job as the leader”. 

The issue of confrontation and the consequences of lack thereof, are applicable to every situation in both our personal lives and careers.

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