Difficult Conversations Made Easy

November 08, 2017 | Connie Low



‘Performance appraisal’ - words which bring unease not just to employees but to managers.  Many managers find it challenging to provide feedback to employees whose performance have not been up to their expectations.  Having these difficult conversations need not be as challenging as one would think, and could help improve performance as well as your working relationships with your team, if done well.  At the same time, performing employees should not be neglected as well.  It is just as important to recognise their contributions and reinforce positive behaviour.

R-B-I/B-I-F Feedback Model1

A simple and easy to remember guide for offering feedback that will meet the goals of reinforcing or redirecting performance and behavior is the R-B-I/B-I-F Feedback Model.

When delivering feedback for recognition:


When delivering feedback for improvement:



Capture attention with a superlative word such as "outstanding". Choose exclamatory words that sound natural coming from you.

“Stephanie, you did a great job today at the career fair!”


Describe the behaviour in concise yet descriptive terms.  Behaviours are defined as actions that are able to be seen or heard.     

“I saw how you greeted the candidates at our booth, provided them with information and directed them to the representatives from the appropriate business units.”

“You did not receive the candidate who was here for an interview and were not contactable.”


Explain the impact of the behaviour.  Consider the impact to the customer, colleagues and organisation.

“You made the candidates feel at ease by engaging them in an enthusiastic and genuine manner.  By directing them to the representatives from the appropriate business units, you enabled the latter to have more productive discussions.  This helped to create a positive candidate experience and positive branding for the company.”     
The candidate was waiting in the lobby for forty-five minutes and the hiring manager was not able to conduct a proper interview due to the limited time left for the interview.  He has asked to schedule another interview with the candidate, However, the candidate has declined citing the long wait.  The hiring manager is upset with our team as he may have lost a suitable candidate. This will also have a negative impact on our candidate experience and employer brand.”  


Provide guidance or a recommendation for what the employee may do differently in the future.   

“You may want to set meeting alerts and ensure you are available to greet candidates when scheduling interviews.”

Keep An Open Mind

When delivering constructive feedback, remember to go into the session with an open mind:

  • Don’t make assumptions, ask questions and give the employee the opportunity to give his point of view
  • Maintain a neutral tone and contain your emotions so as not to bring up employee’s defences which would lead to an unproductive discussion
  • Don’t use “Should”. Instead, ask the employee for suggestions on how he would do things differently or suggest to the employee what he could do to improve.


Timely Feedback Makes A Difference

Lastly, don’t wait till it’s time for the formal appraisal process to provide feedback.  Feedback is most effective when given in a timely manner.  Recurring conversations between managers and employee build a collaborative and transparent review system, enhance learning agility, empower employees, and lead to higher employee engagement and motivation.

 1. http://www.headhearthandsengagement.com

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Tags:   Employee Performance performance appraisal feedback difficult conversations employee engagement Performance management

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