Regardless of industry, role, and organization, all leaders eventually find themselves in a situation where they have to tell an employee that they are not meeting expectations.

In our experience, many leaders struggle with delivering “corrective” feedback because they know how difficult it can be to be on the receiving end of that conversation. One of the hardest things in the world for most people to hear is “you are not meeting expectations” or “I feel like you are not living up to your full potential”.

Most employees like transparency

For leaders who see themselves as fundamentally “nice” people, delivering corrective performance feedback can feel “mean” because of the emotions created – surprise, anger, disappointment, and shame, for example.

Most employees care about being successful in their roles, although the precise definition of success may differ from person to person. This is especially true for Millennial & Gen Z employees, who tend to be more purpose-driven in their work. This means that most employees actually want to know if they are not meeting expectations so they can become successful – consider that lack of management transparency and recognition are two drivers of low employee engagement.

When seen from this perspective, withholding feedback from an underperforming employee is denying them an opportunity to grow, improve, and have more of an impact in their role. Giving feedback – both positive and corrective – feedback is actually the “nice” thing to do.

If you want to build strong relationships and increase trust with your employees being candid equals being kind or ‘nice’. Plus, employees who know where they stand have higher levels of engagement and productivity.


After working with thousands of leaders around the world, we know that inspiring teams, having influence, and collaboration are some of the most common coaching topics. Leaders are also expected to go beyond “influential and be inspirational. In our experience, the most reliable way to improve leadership performance is by developing strong relationship skills.

Our leadership development tool & framework address the most common leadership challenges and are used in all of our coaching programs.

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