When you’re delivering feedback to individuals you are likely expecting some resistance; whether that be upset, shock or more visceral reactions like blame and denial. In 99% of cases your efforts will lead to transformation, but there will always be that one person whose resistance seems like a hurdle you just can’t overcome.
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with resistant individuals. Despite this, there are four stages you can go through to not only prevent the likeliness of encountering a difficult recipient, but also encourage them to change even after a disastrous initial feedback session. Follow these stages and you’ll know you’ve done everything in your power to help an individual achieve transformation, no matter how uncompromising they seem…
Stage 1: Prepare ahead of time
An individual’s need to resist feedback could stem from a number of roots causes, some of which you can minimise ahead of time. Perhaps they don’t respect the 360 degree feedback process, or understand why it is being used? Or perhaps they are worried that their privacy will not be respected? Fears surrounding the process itself can lead recipients to declare the whole thing null and void, thus rejecting any future steps. Similarly, if an individual believes that the process is being used as a method of punishment or weeding out the office bad eggs, they are likely to start on a guarded note. Your communication skills and transparency can greatly reduce the likeliness of resistance in the long term, especially if the individual knows the appraisal system is designed to help them transform.
Stage 2: Recognise resistance in initial feedback sessions
Of course, if data suggests reviewers’ opinions of an individual are wildly different from the individual’s opinion of his or herself, you can predict some uneasy conversations. However, there are other ways to detect resistance, such as;
+ A recipient tries to assign blame or reacts with denial when it comes to his or her data
+ Their body language is closed off, introverted and lacking in meaningful eye contact
+ They try to justify every facet of their feedback with a story, anecdote or excuse
+ They may show obvious emotional triggers like being upset, angry or overtly cocky at the other end of the spectrum.
+ They are unwilling to communicate in any meaningful way
Once you’ve had a chance to pour over the data in a 360 degree feedback session, it is important to ensure there is a solid window of time at the end of the session allowing the recipient to vent their feelings. This is a crucial step enabling you to hear their honest opinions, or even just sit in silence while he or she digests everything they’ve just been presented with.
With patience, you’ll find that a recipient may not be concerned with what you expect – it could be a seemingly insignificant morsel that has them the most worked up. Feeling understood at this stage is one of the best ways to negate resistance at a later date, and should enable you to pave the way towards positive next steps like coaching sessions or training modules.
Stage 3: Adapt the 360 Discovery Method to tackle resistance
Taking an open and ambitious recipient through their data will undoubtedly feel like all your hard work was worth it, but it will be a different story with a resistant individual. It takes time, determination and confidence to unpick someone’s upset, but there are some proven steps (or levels) that can help:
+ Level 1: Listen intently to their thoughts and concerns and ask meaningful questions, focusing on any areas where they show signs of confusion, frustration or upset. A safe and non-judgemental attitude from you is essential to ensure there’s an adequate level of trust.
+ Level 2: If you’re concerned an individual doesn’t fully understand the gravity of a point in their feedback, you’ll need to focus on impact and potential consequences – guiding the individual through what matters and what doesn’t.
+ Level 3: Explain to the recipient the impact their resistance is having on you, such as your key observations about their personality and behaviour in a constructive way.
+ Level 4: Acknowledge a lack of openness with the individual, declare a session over and part ways on good terms.
Stage 4: Understand your limitations
As a HR professional responsible (either fully or in-part) for a 360 degree feedback process, you have lots of opportunity to assist with positive change and transformation. However, a resistant individual who continually brushes off support, advice and feedback may be beyond your help in the short term. Make it clear to the individual that there is always a route of communication and support open to them, and accept that you can’t force or discipline an individual into changing their attitude.
For more on this and other incredibly powerful insights and advice, get your copy of 360 Feedback : A Transformational Approach today.