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Coaching Employees Who Are Hard on Themselves

Providing feedback to employees is a critical part of any manager’s job. If a leader feels like they can’t say anything or be completely transparent in their employee feedback, it doesn’t do anyone any good. However, it makes coaching a bit more challenging when the employee is already extremely self-critical.

As a boss, it’s all about preparation when heading into a meeting with a direct report who is already hard enough on themselves. So naturally, this conversation needs to be approached thoughtfully and planned out appropriately.

First, open the meeting by telling them about specific contributions they make to the team. Set the tone at the start, making this a meeting about cohesion, improvement, and positivity.

Second, address the lack of confidence if it affects the quality of their work. And don’t just say it, give them specific examples. Employees who are overly self-critical might not even understand the enormity of their behavior and its impact on their performance.

Lastly, come up with a solution and provide the support they need. Give specific recommendations for behavior changes they can make and follow up to make sure the behavior has changed. Also, tell them what the next steps will be if the behavior doesn’t change.

Before things get to the point where a manager has to walk down this road with an employee and have these conversations, there is a certain responsibility and opportunity they have to implement specific processes to help avoid the self-critical behavior. It starts with these 3 steps.

  1. Set Clear Expectations Early – If managers want employees to succeed, this should be a common practice in leadership. Doing this early reduces confusion and gives employees a clear understanding of what’s expected of them and the KPIs used to measure their performance, increasing their chances of success.
  2. Know When to Step In – Part of being a manager is knowing when to act based on an employee’s behavior and performance. Employees who are already critical enough of themselves need a manager who times out feedback appropriately and consistently while also executing in a way that will make them successful.
  3. Motivate Them – When employees are motivated, they bring a higher level of commitment to their job every day. They work hard toward their goals, are more engaged, and genuinely want to do a good job for themselves and their organization.

Throughout the manager-employee relationship, there are certain things those in a leadership position can do to get the best out of their overly self-critical employees.

  1. Give Feedback – Employees want to know how they’re doing and how they might be able to improve.
  2. Create a Culture of Team – Teammates not only help to encourage one another but also hold each other accountable.
  3. Praise Employees – When employees are recognized by their manager, it builds self-esteem and confidence. These two things are crucial for employees who are hard on themselves.
  4. Listen to Employees – Managers who are open to employees’ ideas validate their opinions and make them feel more respected.
  5. Use Failure as a Teaching Tool – All employees fail at one point or another. Good managers use failure to help employees learn and improve at their jobs.
  6. Abide by an Open-Door Policy – It gives employees the confidence to find solutions on their own first because they know their manager will be there if any questions or concerns arise.

Coaching employees who are hard on themselves comes with its own set of challenges, but not if managers have a plan and process to help build up these employees. Join the conversation on LinkedIn and check out How to Avoid a Job Decision You’ll Regret.