A Cornerstone Of Sound Management: ‘No Surprises’


Victor Lipman

July 21, 2016

Over the next year I’ll be running a periodic series of answers to common management-related questions.  This one involves employee evaluations – but even more importantly, the sort of managing one should be doing on a daily basis – that makes evaluations an easy conversation rather than a stressful event.

Dear Victor:

Wanted to get your advice. I have an evaluation coming up later this week with a valuable employee. He’s super-talented and knows his job really well – there’s only one problem: He’s not good at collaboration, he’s super smart but doesn’t listen well and has trouble working in a group with other team members.  Well, I guess there’s really two problems.  I’ve never discussed this issue with him – just been too busy this quarter – so this Friday in his evaluation will be the first time.  Now I’m worried – I don’t want to demoralize him, he’s a key employee – but I can’t let this poor teamwork continue.  What do you think?



Dear David:

Sorry to say it, but this is a pretty classic scenario – “there were a lot of employee problems but I never addressed when I should have and now I’m in a pickle.”  I came across this situation many, many times during my management career.

So what to do?  First of all, in the evaluation, unpleasant as it will be, you have to tell your employee about his collaboration and listening issues.   You have to be candid and direct.  In short, you have to manage.  You can’t let a “cycle of ignoring” continue, which only perpetuates the problems and continues to harm team dynamics.

Guaranteed, your employee will be surprised – and upset.  That’s what happens when needed corrective feedback isn’t provided when it should have been, and is unexpectedly piled on at a later date.  So now you have no choice but to take your medicine – a hard, contentious meeting – and move forward.  As best you can, put this difficult feedback in a broader context – that of a highly talented employee who does outstanding work a great deal of the time.

But who also has clear areas to improve.

As do we all.

But here’s the most important thing: Going forward, all substantive negative feedback (and positive feedback too) has to be conveyed on a timely basis.  It has to be given when an issue occurs, not months after the fact.  That way there are no surprises – plus the employee has the opportunity to take corrective action.

“No surprises” is a cornerstone of sound management.  Ultimately, it’s better for you, better for your employee, and better for your team.

Sure, it’s harder than just ignoring the tough stuff (telling yourself you’ll bring it up later), but that after all is the job of management: dealing with the tough stuff.

In the long run, your employee and your team will respect you for it.  Plus another significant benefit: If all the hard honest feedback is provided when it should be, all future evaluations will become a cinch.

They’ll just be an easy, expected dialogue – as opposed to a meeting about as enjoyable as a trip to the dentist.

Best of luck with Friday’s evaluation – and future management.



Management questions and comments are always welcome…

*    *    *

This article was written by Victor Lipman from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Comment this article

Great ! Thanks for your subscription !

You will soon receive the first Content Loop Newsletter