How do I give feedback to some who isn't pleasant to work with?


For better or for worse, we have all worked with that person. And you know the person that I'm talking about: The person who may be rubbing folks on your team the wrong way. The person who may be coming off more harsh or is honestly just unpleasant to work with on a day-to-day basis.

I'm Claire. I'm the CEO of Know Your Team, a leadership upskilling platform that gives you everything you need to be the best leader possible.

What's common in this situation for us is to have the instinct of wanting to just let that person know, "Hey, please, can you just change your behavior?" But there's actually two different elements that we need to unpack first before we dive straight in to just delivering the feedback. And that is usually folks who are exhibiting unpleasant behavior in a work environment fall into one of two camps. The first is either they actually have no idea that they're causing any kind of negative attitude or rubbing folks the wrong way.

And so if that's the case, it's really actually about how do I point this out in a way that's going to not make this person feel defensive? That might mean saying phrases such as, "Hey, I would love to offer a transparent look at really, you know, what I think is happening and what I'm observing in a situation." So in other words, you're not trying to be accusatory and you're also not assuming that this person is on the same page in terms of actually seeing the situation for what it is. So spend time really accurately describing and trying to objectively describe what is happening.

The second sort of set of scenarios that's usually most common when you are in a situation where someone's not the most pleasant to work with on is that they actually do know, right? They know they're coming across kind of harsh or aggressive or that they're not the most fun person to work with right now. They do know, and yet they continue to exhibit that behavior because they believe that ultimately it's the most effective way to move forward. So in other words, in their mind, they're post rationalizing and saying, "Well, I don't have time to sort of sugarcoat things." Or, "You know what? Honestly, this is the most effective way to drive results is if I'm just really hard on people." Right?

So whatever that post-rationalization they may be having, that's the thing then for us as leaders that we're going to have to really speak to. It's the fact that they actually think this approach is working and that there is no alternative. So this means if you are find yourself working with someone who's in this sort of second bucket of scenario, then it's really about describing what your intention is and your shared intention actually that you have that's actually very much in common with this person for finding the most effective way to have the results be true.

So for example, you may sit down with this person and preface your feedback by saying, "Hey, I know we both care about, right, making sure that the projects are delivered on time." Or, "I know we both care about high quality. I'd love to have an active discussion together about what could be the best way to do that." So you see that really the discussion isn't just, "Hey, can you just change your behavior 'cause you're annoying people or frustrating people." It's about zooming out and acknowledging that you want to get on the same page as this person as to what is the most effective way and path forward. Because at the end of the day, for someone who is maybe acting unpleasant or in a way that isn't aligned with the rest of the culture, really, they wanna be effective, right?

And they wanna be having a positive impact. And so if you can sort of reframe the feedback conversation less as, "Oh gosh, I need to tell this person to change drastically," and more about, "Well, how do we get eye to eye about what is truly most effective?" Then you can get actually closer to that behavior changing. Now of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg, right?

If you are interested in more frameworks around feedback, around coaching, if you'd like to participate in coaching sessions and more deep dives on this, definitely again, check out our leadership upskilling platform here at Know Your Team. And in the meantime, I look forward to having you join us for our next manager tip. Thanks so much.

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