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Painless Performance Conversations: A Practical Approach to Critical Day-to-Day Workplace Discussions by Marnie E. Green

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5

Lead with Behavior

Separating Actions from Attitudes

Behavior is a mirror in which everyone displays his own image.

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Have you ever worked with an employee who had a bad attitude?
Have you ever tried to change an employee with an attitude problem?
When you have attempted to change an employee's attitude, were you successful?

A conversation that focuses on an employee's attitude can, and likely will, spiral out of control because you and the employee will be talking about something that is not observable. Because attitudes are deeply embedded in the employee's belief system and changing the employee's beliefs can be a challenging task, performance conversations must focus on observable behaviors. Rather than beginning performance conversations focused on attitude, lead with behavior.

Starting the conversation by focusing on an employee's attitude will backfire for two reasons. First, describing the employee's attitude does not help him or her understand what's being done that is unacceptable. For example, if you say, “John, you need to focus more so that you can improve your performance,” John will likely say that he is focused. At that point the conflict is about whether or not he is focused. Instead, if you describe the behaviors you have observed, he is more likely to engage in the conversation. For example, you might say, “John, I've noticed that your tracking forms were not completed for our last three one-on-one meetings.”

Second, focusing on ...

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