From Fast Company, Elizabeth Pagano offers a handful of reasons that managers avoid having conversations with employees about performance:
“Eleven Things We Tell Ourselves to Avoid Giving Bad News.”
I don’t think she can handle it.
I’ll hurt his feelings.
She will get emotional.
He will get defensive.
I’m sure that she already knows.
He should already know.
She will think that I’m singling her out.
It’s only my opinion.
He will think that I do not like him.
It will ruin our relationship.
The situation may take care of itself.
I’ll add a few more I’ve heard
It will hurt his career. (!)
It will hurt the team spirit.
It’s not my place. (!)
It doesn’t happen all the time.
I don’t understand the technical aspects, so I can’t coach her.
I let it slide before, so I can’t tell him now.
I didn’t see it happen, so I can’t comment on it.
That’s just Fred.
What if Fred gets pissed and quits?
If I have to fire Fred, I won’t be able to replace him.
I suspect that underneath these reasons is a more personal reason: “I’m not sure I can handle what will happen.”
Feedback is hard, and most of us don’t have useful models for how to give feedback to employees (or peers). And, in my experience, failing to give feedback carries a higher price than not giving feedback: it destroys trust and drags down morale.