RCT Blog


Generalizations. Labels. Opinions. Inflammatory words. Attitudes. None of these have a place in a conversation that addresses performance behaviors. Let's look at some examples:

  • "You are never here on time." - Generalization. The resulting response will sound something like this: "What do you mean? I came in today on time." Never is probably not factual!
  • "You are not a team player." Label. And by the way, what is the definition of a team player, anyway? (This one really set off a participant in a recent class I held.)
  • "I think that is a foolish decision." Opinion.
  • "I've heard that excuse before." Inflammatory word. "Excuse" implies that you are lying to me. The resulting response will sound something like this: "What do you mean, excuse? That's the truth!!"
  • "You have a bad attitude." You can't open up someone's head to see their "attitude." You can, however, talk about behaviorsthat lead you to believe they have a bad attitude. Please do not use the attitude word in a performance discussion with someone!

Focus strictly on behaviors, and be specific about what you have seen and heard. Let's look at some replacement phrases for the examples above.

  • "You are never here on time" should be "You have been 15 minutes late for work the last four days." Discuss the facts, not broad-brushed generalizations.
  • "You are not a team player" should reference a specific behavior, like "I don't see you helping your co-workers when you are finished your work."
  • "I think that is a foolish decision" should be "I think that decision does not take 'X' into consideration." A label like "foolish" is your opinion, and that word will lead to a defensive response.
  • "I've heard that excuse before" could be better stated as "I've heard that explanation before."
  • "You have a bad attitude" could be "This week I have heard you complain about your workload and call a co-worker a 'moron.'"

When addressing behaviors, focus on the performance - the actions - not the person. Not your opinion, thoughts, generalizations or attitudes. Zero-in on actions. That will lead to a much more productive conversation!

posted by Pamela Canning, CSC

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