You are in an appraisal or feedback meeting and have told your staff member what needs to improve. Instead of the concerned reaction you expect, what you actually get is a subdued ‘Yeah, OK’ while their body language shrieks ‘whatever’ as they look to the floor and twirl their fingers.

Internally you swear. Despite your best efforts to define the importance of the issues under discussion, and to clarify how their behaviour is adversely impacting team results they are displaying zero commitment to any improvement and change. What to do?

This is where you place the responsibility for change firmly on their shoulders. You have already done your bit in terms of informing them and offering them support to improve; now it is imperative that you make it very clear that the next step is totally up to them.
The way to introduce this is:

I have set out the issue of X and the Y improvements that need to be made. Of course, you do not have to actually do anything. The decision about whether or not to make these changes is entirely up to you. You may decide to do nothing, in which case I need to tell you that when we meet again in X days/weeks to review your work I will be left with no alternative but to Y. However, if you do choose to make the improvements we have discussed then I look forward to congratulating you at our next review. As I said, the decision is solely yours.

All of the above needs to said in a calm, factual voice. You might want to show a bit more enthusiasm in your voice when anticipating the opportunity to congratulate them, just to emphasise the positive outcome! Of course, this is only an example. You know your staff member best and the language that will motivate them most. But it is important that you indicate – through your tone of voice – that it will make no difference to you personally which option they choose. It is absolutely their own decision and the only person who will be affected by their decision is themselves. The key elements of the conversation are ‘the choice is yours’ and ‘here are the two consequences’.

Try it. It may not always work but it often can! And if it doesn’t, at least you have been fair and warned them in advance of the consequences they face if they decide to make no improvement.

To find out how Converse Well can help you turn difficult feedback situations into opportunities to motivate and engage your staff, call 020 8870 9036 or 07734 944 515 or email