Hello, Thanks for podcasts and this website. Very very helpful. I am first time writer here but constant reader. I have a difficult situation at work. I am a first time manager and have been in this position for 1 year 9 months. One of my directs has a habit of crying at 1:1 every time when I give her improvement feedback. She is my first employee that I hired as a hiring manager. I have 6 other directs besides her. After 6 months of being employed she cried for the first time at our 1:1. While she was doing just OK, I found necessary to indicate the areas for improvement. She cried. I offered her tissue and water which she refused. Her complaint was that I don't value her as an employee and don't say thank you enough (this is not true). I told that I feel terribly uncomfortable when she cries and I can't continue to talk until she calms down. I was devastated by her cry. I was stressed. I realized at that time she is very super sensitive and I was very cautious when giving her feedback for the next months. The same story happened few months later during her annual performance review. After this happened again, I went to HR and told them about the situation. Few more months passed and it happened again for the third time. There was never yelling during our 1:1, actually I never yell. Just as always I praised her contributions then indicated her improvement areas. I went to HR again and my boss got involved as well. My boss, HR and myself met for a talk. We decided that HR will be present at our next 1:1 with this employee to see what is going on and straighten our communication and I agreed. Then HR, the crying employee and I met and she was crying all 40 mins meeting with HR!!! I was exhausted emotionally by then. But I have second thoughts now. I'll try to explain. Now I am emotionally afraid of her. I don't want to see her again crying and don't see myself able to give her performance improvement feedback. I just can't. I don't see any point in having 1:1 even with HR present. I can't see her crying again. And I am devastated. I helped her a lot to learn the job and any other possible ways but it just does not work out. What do I do now? Fire her? Performance wise she is just OK, definitely she has areas for improvements, but who does not? She is super sensitive to any feedback, even her peers notice it and prefer to go to someone else to ask questions than to her. Please any advise. Apologies if my text is confusing. I am really really upset!


senekka's picture

Forgot to say what she explains her cry that when she hears something does not make sense (in her opinion), then she gets very emotional and cries.

ssentes's picture
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You are doing the right thing by giving your direct both positive as well as negative feedback. Even though she may be upset by negative feedback at times does not mean you should stop giving it. It is not only necessary to indicate areas for improvement for your directs, it is your job. Being cautious about negative feedback or stopping the delivery of it entirely is not the answer.

The point of a One on One meeting is to build a relationship between your direct and yourself. You are right, having HR there makes the meeting pointless. What is intended to be a relationship building excersise is now the exact opposite and is tearing down the relationship.

You need to be sure not to allow your directs negative behavior influence how you manage them. If you are giving your direct a 9:1 ratio of positive to negative feedback and you are showing her that you value her you are doing the exact right thing. Your direct is the only person who can control her behavior and you are the only person who can control your reaction to it. She is not upsetting you, you are allowing her crying (which in itself is a negative behavior) to make you feel uncomfortable, stress you, devistate you and take control of you. You said it yourself, you are emotionally afraid of her. 

Firing an employee for crying 3 times (maybe more and you just didnt mention them?) is not an appropriate way to deal with this situation. As a manager it is your responsibility to do all you can reasonably do to avoid firing an employee. Yes, sometimes the situation calls for it and it is the right thing to fire people. This is not one of those times.

I am going to recommend a couple of podcasts. These are not exactly related to what you are experiencing but they deal with crises that cause directs to be emotionally upset:

When it boils down to it you have to find a way to be ok with yourself. You know you are doing the right thing. Keep doing exactly what you are doing, not because it is easy but because it is the right thing to do. While its not much you can always take solice in the fact that you are being a good manager.

Sarah Sentes

Manager Tools - Presenting Associate




senekka's picture

Thank you for encouraging words and excellent poits!

I think you are right, I am taking personal and letting her emotions take me over. 

In the back of my head, I decided to let her go some time later (in 5-6 months) if she does not get better from being just OK, an average. She drawns on my energy and time and makes my life as a manager hard. 

ashdenver's picture

I hope you're still planning to do weekly one-on-one's with her during that five to six month window. Without the direct communication, she will not have the opportunity to work on her emotional control nor will you have the opportunity to work on deflecting the emotional release. Her crying is about her; it really shouldn't have much impact on you, your work life or your ability to manage her.

senekka's picture

Yes, planning to do though I really do not want to do. But as a manager, I realize this is my challenge and I want to face my challenge and learn a bit - any experience is an experience. Will keep posted.

uwavegeek's picture
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Have you considered having her listen to the feedback casts?  I know that I give a detailed explanation of the feedback model well before I used it with all my directs.  In this case, I would sit down for a few one hour sessions and go through the feedback casts.  Understanding the model, how it works, and how it sounds may well clear the air here and help her overcome this fear of negative feedback.

Good luck,