From time to time, your performance may not meet the expectations of your boss and you could be made aware of your shortcomings. It is better that this is done informally at your workstation or more formally in your boss's office. This is preferable to having poor performance documented and kept in your file, as may happen in a performance appraisal or, worse still, a disciplinary interview. If your boss asks you to discuss her concerns with your performance, here is how you can turn a potentially negative situation into a positive one:
BEFORE THE DISCUSSION
Ask for a little time to prepare.
Take time to cool down. Being angry or defensive will just exacerbate the situation.
Collect any facts that may have relevance — the number of mistakes, customer complaints, etc.
Be open-minded about what your boss has to say. Be prepared to listen and learn. If your performance has not met the standards and expectations, think about how you can improve. Prepare a plan for change.
Take notepaper to the meeting.
DURING THE DISCUSSION
Be courteous. Greet your boss with a smile. This will help set the climate for problem-solving rather than confrontation.
Listen to the problem as described by your boss. Make notes if necessary.
Show your agreement to any facts presented. Where opinions are presented, think about them before responding.
Indicate to your boss that you are there to solve the problem, and that you appreciate the feedback you are being given. For you, this is an opportunity to learn and improve.
If your boss is being vague, ask for specifics. In a collaborative tone of voice, say things like: "Hmmm, can you give me an example of that?" or "Gee, I can't think of having done that. Can you remind me of that occurrence?"
Get involved in developing a plan for improvement. Separate the things you will do from those with which you may need help. For example, you may
be more careful;
be more courteous;
need more training;
need documented standards or procedures.
Ask for your boss's assistance if you feel that he has
not coached you;
failed to give you regular feedback;
not acknowledged your successes;
not set goals.
Many people don't have goals that are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Agreed upon, Realistic, Time-based). If this is the case with you, ask your boss if you can negotiate some short- and medium-term goals. Write down what was agreed upon.
Confirm that your boss has agreed to help you by asking an open-ended question, such as "Can you help me by describing what we have agreed to, so that I am really clear about it all?"
Summarize your understanding of everything said to make sure that all expectations are clear.
Thank your boss for the opportunity to be involved in finding ways of improving performance. Ask her to always be frank with you if she is not satisfied.
Leave with a handshake.
AFTER THE DISCUSSION
Follow up meticulously on everything agreed upon with your boss.
After a month, ask for feedback if it has not already been given, so you are assured that your performance is on track.