I have an issue with a direct who is very very shy.
It is becoming an issue because she will not chase up open issues with colleagues (she needs to close off) because she is too shy to do so.
I have tried encouraging her and letting her know that it is perfectly fine to push for answers when she needs them...

I do not know what to do.
I do not know how to help her get over her "fear" of others.

This is also affecting the way she deals with clients over the telephone.
She does not manage to get her message across quite often as she couches it so much.
I have tried pointing out that she can use open rather than closed questions..etc, but she continues to fall back into her timid mode once the focus is off. Will I have to have this as an issue all the time or is there any other approach i can take?

We have a 1-2-1 every wk and I believe we have a good working relationship.


Princess 2-3-7-3

HMac's picture

No. You can't give effective feedback about someone's personality.

But you CAN give feedback about their behaviors!

Do yourself a favor: forget about what you think is going on with her personality (that she's "very very shy"). Your diagnosis might be right; it might be wrong. [i]But it doesn't matter[/i]. What matters is her behavior.

You can suggest additional follow-up questions. You can roleplay the conversations she thinks she's facing. Heck, you can even help her prepare "cheat sheets." But stay focused on what she [b][i]has to do [/i][/b]in order to be effective in her role.

She'll get the message.


cwatine's picture
Training Badge

I agree 100%.
Feedback is only on behavior and the model is pretty strict.

When you says "this" to the customer, he does not get the message, and the job is not done. What can you do differently next time?
When you don't chase up open issues like with XX, projects get late and people begin to think it is not a big deal. What can you do differently next time?

It is progressive and repetitive and you need not to rush things. You need to point what needs to be adjusted in her behavior (not in her personality because you have a problem with behavior, not personality).
And also to give postive feedback when possible.

Over time, she may change ... or not.

Then (after several feedbacks) maybe it will be time for coaching her to improve.

jhack's picture

Hugh and Cedric are right: "shy" isn't the issue.

"Chase up" is also not specific enough. When you ask her "what can you do differently," you should look for answers like "I could call them" or "I could send an email." Those may not be perfect, but it's OK. The key is to head in the right general direction. You can refine over time.

You don't if she's afraid of others. She may be afraid of conflict, or of getting fired. Or she may not be afraid at all. Those are conclusions.

Focus on effective action (behavior) and the results will come.


TomW's picture
Training Badge

No, this is not a feedback opportunity.

It could be a coaching opportunity. You could work with her to help develop her confidence in front of clients, pointing her to resources that can help her and setting goals to reach.

All that has to start with "When you don't present your ideas to the client in a way they will understand/listen to/relate to, here's what happens...."

US41's picture

Shy is not a behavior. Shy is an adjective that describes your emotional response to some behavior with which you are not impressed. Give feedback on behavior.

1. What they say
2. Facial expressions
3. Body Language
4. Work delivery
5. Punctuality

That kind of thing.

Read Buckingham as well - First Break All the Rules and Now Discover Your Strengths. Do not spend time hammering your directs trying to mold them into something they are hard-wired to never be. Find out what your directs major strengths are, and focus on appreciating and enhancing them.

Use adjusting feedback on weaknesses to get those weaknesses from pulling your direct down and no more. Obsessing over weaknesses and spending all of your time trying to change people (Kiersey's Pygmalian Project) is one of the most popular management goofs that well-intentioned managers who could-have-been make over and over again.

Archer's picture

I would be cautious not to obsess over this behaviour.

Giving feedback regarding her Behaviour will be necessary in this situation (she will not be in a position to fulfill her current role without mastering this fear), however the question is whether she is willing or able to overcome this and whether she has other areas of strength which may compensate for this weakness ? -Is there scope to adjust her role within the team if necessary ?

There are three ways to go as I see it (depending on how central to her role this issue is) :
Coaching her to see how these situations should be handled and also see that even the worst case scenario is rarely as bad as all that. (Perhaps some project work might provide a good platform for this to be achieved in a positive light).

"Play to her strengths" by concentrating her role / time in a different area within your remit (Depending on your industry this may be possible to differing degrees).

If neither 1 or 2 above result in a positive result, then you've got a bigger problem than just her shyness (or resulting behaviour)......