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Discover the Formula for Addressing Difficult Situations

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I believe that employees come to work and intend to do a good job every day. Very rarely does someone think, “Today I’m going to wreak havoc with everything I do.”

Often, people’s intentions come across in a way that has a different impact from what they truly intend. When this happens, it’s time for you to have a difficult conversation.

Here are two helpful definitions of intend and impact:

Intent: What I say, do, or know.

Impact: What others see or hear.

It’s important to remember that we judge ourselves based on our intent & we judge others based on the impact we see.

Let’s look at this situation: Your employee believes (intends) that he always listens to and values others’ opinions. Your perception (impact) is that he often is in a rush and does not listen well to others. This creates a GAP between your employee’s intent and his impact on others.

When “who your employee is” doesn’t align with “how others see him”, this creates a critical disconnect that needs to be addressed. Your job, as his manager/supervisor, is to provide feedback so that he sees the difference between his intent and the impact that others see. This is often a matter of helping him step into other people’s shoes so that he can have a fresh look at how he’s viewed.

Intent vs Impact at Work

© Flickr user Petras Gagilas


Here are 5 steps, using intent amd impact, to help you address this difficult issue. Try saying the following:

1) I know that you intend to do a great job every day at work and that you believe you always listen to and value other people’s opinions.

These words are intended to reinforce the idea that we all go to work with the best of intentions. We’re there to help, and by reminding people that we know this, we’re starting the conversation in productive place.

2) My perception (impact) is that you rush many times and do not listen well to others. So this creates a GAP. Here are some examples of what I have seen: give specific examples of his behavior.

Be prepared: Feedback can come as a shock. You may hear things like “you don’t know who I really am…I’m not like that…That’s not what I intended…Why would you say this?” Acknowledge what is said, and try to maintain eye contact.

3) I’m sure that’s not what you intended. Put yourself in my place–what would you think about the intent if you saw that your employee was in a rush much of the time and did not seem to listen well?

Now, wait for your employee to answer. The waiting is important! Feel free to ask open-ended questions to lead the discussion.

4) We’ve talked about the gap between your intent and the impact that I see. What do you want your behavior to look like so that your intent and impact align?

Again, wait for the employee to answer, and ask open-ended questions to lead the discussion.

5) So that we can ensure your intent and impact are aligning with this situation, let’s schedule a time to meet to follow up.

This ensures that the employee knows that the conversation is about ongoing improvement, not just one-time feedback.

It’s not always easy to talk about the gap between what we mean and what was heard. This discussion will probably feel uncomfortable at first; however, feedback and follow up are the only way that your employee can know about and understand the gap between his intent and his impact on others.

Now, you’re prepared to work on the difference between what people want and what effect their actions have!

AccelaWork helps organizations everyday learn to engage their employees more successfully. Contact them today with your question about building better workplace productivity.

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Cindy Allen-Stuckey

Cindy Allen-Stuckey

Cindy Allen-Stuckey, CEO and founder of Making Performance Matter, collaborates with organizations to convert their strategy into action. She takes global organizations to the next level by developing customized "people strategies" that bring their business strategy to life and enabling them to optimally execute it.