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Sensitive sharing of information

The issue of focus here is when coworkers are working together on project work and one is underperforming. Does this impact others? If so, which it does, how do you address this without sharing sensitive information about the deficiencies of their coworker? If you let it go, it could actually bring down overall team performance. The employee that isn’t performing well can be making all types of excuses as to why and then others begin to agree with them.

How can you take this on so that the morale and quality of work doesn’t begin to deteriorate due to the influence of the “poor performer”?

We certainly want to consider privacy and dignity of another person. Information shared should be “need to know” only. You want to maintain integrity and the loyalty/trust of your employees as they are hearing alot of misinformation by the poor performer, justifying their issues and blaming the employer/supervisor. More often than not, coworkers tend to take the emotional aspects of this on and begin to be skeptical about their leaders as they fear the same can happen to them. Not having the details, which they really are not privy to adds to their concerns. But there are things you can do.

If you are hearing or feeling that there are rumblings of a discontent employee (or two) you need to look closer. Be sure you truly understand what is causing problems. Sometimes other employees are completely aware of poor performers and the issues related so they are not concerned. However, if you see that there is a morale issue brewing and staff are concerned about how their coworker is “being treated” it requires some intervention.

Engage your staff. Ask them how they are feeling, how things are going and if there are any obstacles they may be experiencing. Identify how well they are working together. Are there conflicts you need to address? Is everyone holding their own “weight” on the project? Ask how well they think everything is moving along. Keep open lines of communication. This is one way for this type of issue not to get too far along.

If you hear things that are blatantly false and misinformation, it provides you an opportunity to address the topic and clarify whatever it might be. If it is a personnel issue and coworkers are concerned about how their coworker is being handled, you may need to share enough information that they can view the issue in a different way. For example…you can reiterate what they are telling you about and what they are hearing to balance the perspective. You can do so by saying something like..”when someone is struggling, they often will try to displace the issue and blame others”. Further, you can express “some people’s skills do not match the functions they are in and so this can create performance issues”, and almost always does.

Remind them of the disciplinary/coaching process as well. When someone is falling behind, how you address this in your department/unit/company. Be sure your actions match! This will help calm their fears about their own employment status. Be sure to assure them that they will know if there are issues that need to be addressed and will be provided opportunity to improve as necessary.

It s helpful to remind them that more often than not, coworkers do not want to express they are struggling, especially to their peers. So seeking ways to balance perspectives is important to keep morale up and performance moving in the direction you need.

Too often leaders do not take the time to tune into how their staff are functioning together. They don’t create an environment that allows for open and free flowing sharing of concerns and challenges. While many say we have an “open door policy” what that actually means is very different than what it should be. I see this often.

Best practices is to stay in tune with the emotional and relationship side of how your employees work together. It is not only worth your time, it is essential to optimize performance on every level and keep employees content. Being transparent about how you manage and evaluate performance is key. This being said, there are far less concerns when a coworker is complaining about their supervisor because the behavior of a “good” supervisor will outweigh what that person is saying. Being open, honest and seek to help your staff grow should be second nature.

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