Having effective performance conversations in a community sector workplace can feel like criticising a good friend. Uncomfortable, nausea-inducing and something you just downright don’t want to do.

Picture this: You are in a leadership role and your staff member is a good friend. But the work that your colleague is doing could compromise or has compromised something in the workplace. Or, worse, you’ve received a complaint about their work that has been validated. Are you cringing yet? I know, it’s a tough one, because you genuinely like your friend and colleague.

It’s your job to have a performance-related conversation, but gosh-darn, it’s hard. So what can you do to make it effective and constructive and at the same time, not jeopardise your friendship?

To be honest, you could simply Google “How to have difficult conversations” and come up with a thousand useful articles with great tips and lock-step processes. You could pretend the problem is not there and it will go away by itself. And of course, there’s always the “compliment sandwich.”

However in the supportive environment that defines neighbourhood houses, a coaching or mentoring approach may be the most effective way of delivering constructive feedback and critique. You can’t afford to put it off, so take a deep breath and step in.

Top tips:

  • Be clear and firm about your goal, what you want to achieve in the conversation. Make sure you are clear with yourself before you start.
  • Check in with your colleague throughout the conversation. It may be appropriate to share the dilemma you faced when deciding to bring this matter up. Don’t make assumptions.
  • Consider options, opportunities, professional development, mutual learning. Make sure it’s a conversation and you both come up with some ideas.
  • Leave the conversation with a way forward. You’re both going to have had a nerve wracking time so be kind to yourself.

I don’t love being the recipient of criticism and I don’t love telling friend-colleagues that their work is not up to scratch. But in my experience, being authentic, clear and constructive are the key elements in this role. And the absolute key – don’t put it off. The more you procrastinate, the more the monster will grow. Good luck.

Contributed by Sharon Buck, Advanced Dip Community Sector Management Trainer CCH

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