Provisional Blog

How to Deal with a Defensive Employee

November 27th, 2018

As a manager, giving feedback is a must. But sometimes it can feel like you’re walking through a minefield when you do. This is especially true when you have an employee who tends to get defensive when the input they’re getting on performance isn’t 100% positive. So how can you communicate your needs in a way that they’re more receptive?

Provisional, one of the Northwest’s leading staffing firms, has the answers you need. Follow these tips to get you started:

Be direct.

Don’t sugarcoat the issue or talk in vague statements. Simply tell your employee that whenever you give feedback, you notice they get upset. That’s not your intent; however, the feedback is necessary. Then sit back and listen. Your employee might not even realize they’ve gotten defensive in the past.

Be clear about what you need.

Once the issue is on the table, tell your employee you need to be able to bring up areas of concern with them without fear of them getting defensive. There’s always room for conversation and listening; however, you expect them to be open and not to push back.

Remember, tone matters.

If you come across as angry or critical in any way, then your employee will simply shut down. Instead, diffuse the issue by letting them know that feedback is hard for everyone to hear. You can even share your own personal story of getting difficult feedback, how it felt and mistakes you made when dealing with it. Talking about your own experience will also make them feel like accepting feedback is a skill to be learned.

Give them reassurance.

If your employee is strong overall, tell them that. You don’t want them walking out of the conversation feeling like they’re skating on thin ice. However, do let them know that you want them to perform even better, which involves being able to take in and incorporate feedback into their everyday work.

Continue to give feedback.

You might not notice a big change right away. But don’t let it stop you from giving feedback to your employee. They need to hear about areas to be corrected because if they don’t, they’ll simply get off track in their performance.

Keep in mind, defensiveness is survival mechanism. It’s the brain’s way of reacting to and defending against criticism. So when an employee gets defensive, don’t take it personally. Simply deal with it head on and work with them to overcome it.

Need help with these and other staffing and HR-related issues?

Call the Northwest’s leading staffing firm: Provisional. We can help you source, screen, hire and train the people you need, where and when you need them. Simply connect with us today to learn more or get started.

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