Feedback, Please


In the last two weeks, four different colleagues have found themselves suddenly unemployed, all for the same reason, “You didn’t do what we expected you to. Since your performance is inadequate, we’re firing you.”

My colleagues and I were surprised. Three of the four people received raises and good-to-great performance evaluations in the last six months. The fourth kept hearing “atta-boys” from his boss. So what’s happening?

  1. Maybe the manager is giving these people feedback, but in a way they can’t hear it.
  2. Maybe these colleagues are suddenly not performing (after 20-25 years at work).
  3. Maybe the layoff/firings are not about my colleagues.

Here in Massachusetts, if a company wants to lay off at least 10% of their workforce, they need to file paperwork with the state and let the employees know 30 days in advance. I’m sure there’s more to the law than that, but I’m finding these onesies and twosies layoffs of middle management surprising. If the company makes a series of small layoffs for “performance” reasons, the company doesn’t have to inform the state, doesn’t have to pay severance, and doesn’t have to treat these over-40’s as a protected class. From what I can see, the layoffs/firings are not about my colleagues at all, but about the management performance of their bosses.

Only cowardly managers use performance as an excuse to avoid the perception of layoffs. These unethical managers don’t care if they batter someone’s self-esteem, or make finding a new job difficult. They only care about saving their tushes.

I’m tired of cowardly managers. If you really do want to fire someone because they’re not performing, follow the second rule of feedback:

Give the feedback to the person:

  1. State your observations. Make sure the other person agrees with your data.
  2. Describe the impact of the person’s lack of performance, explaining the effects on the product, the team, the project…
  3. Describe the change you want to see. Be specific. “I’d like to see you complete the whosis task before you take on the whatsis task.”

Real managers, professional managers, competent managers give feedback way before firing is required.

If your company is losing money and you think it’s your employees’ fault, think again. Maybe the real performance problem isn’t your employees. And if the performance problem isn’t your employees, all the onesies and twosies firings for “performance” won’t make a damn bit of difference.

(I’m angry and when I’m angry, I don’t always write well. Please do provide feedback!)

One Reply to “Feedback, Please”

  1. I’ve heard it said that when a sports team plays well it is to the credit of the team. When a sports team plays poorly, the coach is to blame. Perhaps the same is true for the business world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.