Q. I can tell my boss isn’t happy with my performance. How do I start an honest conversation about expectations?
A. Before you start the conversation, create a game plan to ensure that the meeting is successful and accomplishes your goals. Your proactive approach is admirable. You may be helping your boss start a sensitive conversation that he/she has been postponing. Here are a few tips for a meaningful meeting:
- Set up an appointment at a time that is convenient for your boss and estimate how long you think the meeting will take, so he/she can be available. Prepare an agenda that covers your crucial concerns.
- Phrase your points with questions, making it easier for your boss to respond. For example, “In what areas do you think I need to improve?” or “Do you have any suggestions on how I can meet company expectations?” Keep your questions to a limited number, such as six.
- Present the agenda to your boss before the meeting, ensuring that he/she has time to reflect on the questions and deliver helpful answers. At the meeting, make sure you have a notebook and write down the answers as a sign of your commitment to change.
- Listen respectfully to what your boss says. Refrain from interrupting or from giving long excuses as to why you haven’t met expectations. Your boss wants to clear up miscommunications and help you meet expectations as much as you do. Both you and your boss want the internship to add value to the company.
- Keep in mind that an honest conversation is a good goal. But “honest” means in a proactive way that will yield positive results. For example, honesty doesn’t extend to telling the boss that you don’t like your co-workers or that your office is too small, which is why you aren’t meeting expectations.
- Use diplomacy. The meeting is a tool for you to improve your situation, not to bring up negative issues that may be irresolvable. Before the meeting is over, ask your boss to help you create revised expectations, so you have a new method to assess your performance.