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Ask John Dame: Can employees take the truth during performance reviews?

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As an executive coach for the past 15 years, I have worked closely with dozens of CEOs and their leadership teams. All of the executives with whom I work face similar issues. Send your questions to

Q: Can I really tell my employees the truth regarding their performance? I am afraid I might lose some great people if I am honest with them.

John Dame
John Dame - ()

A: I have been doing coaching and strategic planning for years with organizations all over the world. One constant is that people are starving for honest feedback.

I have asked employees over and over again, "How do you know you are doing a good job?" Their answer is astounding. They say, "the absence of being yelled at."

You should never be afraid to tell employees the truth, whether it is good or bad. Most people want to do a good job and are looking for ways to improve.

Sugar-coating your feedback, or outright lying because you are afraid they will leave if you tell them the truth, tells you something about yourself and the relationship you have built with your colleagues. People are resilient and appreciate when you level with them. Give it a try.

Q: There seems to be a lot of drama in my company with excessive water cooler talk and unhappy people. What am I doing wrong?

A: I would place the blame for this issue squarely on your shoulders.

Today people are looking for a great place to work that has an ecosystem that delivers essential social nutrients for employees to flourish and grow.

Crucial components of these ecosystems include: an understanding of our primary need to connect and belong; clarity; safety; validation; recognition; constructive feedback; predictability; civility; meaning; and purpose.

New leaders are strategic, relational and supportive. They see their role as a head facilitator in a constructive social ecosystem versus a hard-nosed taskmaster.

Look at yourself and your leadership style. If you do not meet this standard your employees are likely acting out because they do not feel safe or supported. Self-awareness can bring about change and a significant reduction in drama.

John Dame is a CEO coach, executive team consultant and leadership strategist based in Susquehanna Township, Dauphin County. Visit his website at


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