A great article by Jared Sandberg in today’s Wall Street Journal  notes,

The bad manager tends to conjure images of the blood-vessel-bursting screamer looking for a handle to fly off. But these types are increasingly rare. Far more common, and more insidious, are the managers who won’t say a critical word to the staffers who need to hear it. In avoiding an unpleasant conversation, they allow something worse to ferment in the delay. They achieve kindness in the short term but heartlessness in the long run, dooming the problem employee to nonimprovement. You can’t fix what you can’t say is broken.

“In a knowledge economy, where work is more complex and interdependent, people need feedback more — what they particularly need feedback on are on things that are difficult to give: one’s interpersonal style,” says David Bradford, a lecturer at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.

This is one of the biggest challenges I face in counseling the supervisors and managers I support. How do I get them to adopt the good habit of regularly communicating with their staff about the good and the bad?  In the business I support, I often see the pattern that managers pull work or assignments away from employees with perceived (or real) performance problems instead of addressing the problem directly with the employee.  What should HR’s role be when situations like this go too far?  Thoughts:

 1) If I see the pattern emerging, I say something about it to the managers and coach them on how to speak to the employee about it. Then, I follow up to make sure that the conversation has actually taken place.

2) I read annual reviews carefully before approving raises to make sure there isn’t anything in the document that contradicts what the manager may have mentioned to me one-on-one. If I see any red flags, I question the manager.

3) Training on performance management — continual reminders to managers that the performance management process is not just a once-a-year event. It’s a daily event.

 Anyone out there have any luck tackling this very common problem in their organization?