How do you deal with a team member that whenever you meet with them to give them feedback and / or coaching, they always bring up a laundry list of things other team members are not doing and continues to divert the conversation to focus on what everyone else is not doing correctly?

This team member, no matter how many times I try to bring the conversation back to the specific issue, denies the issue (regardless if I have proof that the error was hers)... and brings up another team member's performance or doesn't believe that it was her error.

I need help to allow this team member to know that I am taking the feedback on the other team members she is giving me, but I feel like my message for her to help her overcome or improve is being lost in her defensiveness.

Appreciate any help/advice.


Accountability through Feedback


Feedback is not a discussion or debate.  If you follow the feedback model, it narrows it specifically to the behavior and asks what she will do differently.  If you are trying to "allow this team member to know that I am taking the feedback on the other team members" you are missing the point of feedback.

It sounds like you are completely convinced she is guilty on this "specific issue" you are discussing with her.  Don't allow her to distract you from holding her accountable through the feedback model..."what can you do differently in the future".  If she tries to bring up other things, I would explain that she did not answer your question, then ask it again.  If she continues to digress, follow the feedback model to give her feedback on her attempts to avoid your question and how causes you concern and makes you wonder why she is refusing to answer the question and makes you wonder why she is not willing to "own" the issue in question.

There may be problems with other employees in the office, but that doesn't excuse her behavior around the issue at hand unless you allow it to.  Have management courage to hold her accountable to her behavior.

Hope this helps.


Maestro -

great casts!

Thanks for recommending them Samberoz.  The "Owning the Inputs" cast was one I hadn't listened to before, and it directly relates to a situation I have now with one of my directs.

Observable behaviors / shortened model / positive feedback

Three points:

1.  Your feedback should be on observable behavior.  Be very specific about this and it would be hard to pin on someone else.  At this point, the behavior could easily change to "when you blame Sally for your project being late" etc.  They just did that 2 seconds ago -- hard to deny this.

2.  You said "no matter how many times I try to bring the conversation back to the specific issue" and if you closely listen to the feedback casts, it shouldn't be a conversation.  The whole thing is 10 seconds.  Maybe switch to the shortened feedback model and end with "Can you do this differently?"  This is a yes/no question and may help break both of you out of the habit of feedback becoming a conversation.

3.  Perhaps most importantly -- make sure you're delivering 90% "positive" feedback.  I'm assuming this person won't try to pass the buck when something goes right.  And it should help to reduce the immediate defensiveness.  In fact, I might even recommend dialing it up to 100% for an extended period of time in order to get this defensiveness ironed out.  You can't stay at 100% forever, of course, but err on the side of too high if you find feedback getting difficult.

Last thing you want to happen is both of you avoid feedback because each time it's a painful fight.

Can I please have more detail?

I like what's been written so far, but would you please give me TWO examples of actual conversations?  Tell me:

1. What happened - what caused you to give feedback.  The incident.

2.  What you said - EXACTLY, IN QUOTES - when you delivered the feedback.  Try to also share your tone, and where you were and when it was.

3. What they said - EXACTLY , IN QUOTES - when you got to step 4.

4.  Also, how much positive and negative feedback they have gotten.

5.  Are you doing One on Ones, and if so how often and with how many of your team?


As I say, I like what's been said above, but I also feel like more detail will really help diagnose the problem.