Chapter 15

Delivering Criticism to a Defensive Employee

by Holly Weeks

How do you handle giving unfavorable feedback to someone who will surely take it badly—and I mean really badly? Think shouting, tears, defensiveness, accusations, personal attacks, revising history, twisting words—pick your nightmare.

Consider the case of Melissa, who was the team leader on a recently concluded project that had been an unsatisfactory experience for the whole group. For most of the team, the project was a disappointment from the start: team members were assigned, not self-selected; it was not a high-profile project; and the deliverables were really important only for Melissa’s mentor’s research. Melissa’s role was not a powerful one. She was first among equals ...

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