Addressing Behavior That You Didn’t Witness

“But I didn’t see it happen, so I can’t call him on it, right?”

Your hesitation as a supervisor or manager to address a performance or behavior issue because you didn’t observe it yourself may be based on a sense of fairness, confidence, or a natural aversion to confrontation.

If it doesn’t seem fair to critique some one for something you didn’t witness, start by thinking about the credibility of what you’ve heard, the likelihood that what was reported really happened, and what effect it could have on the desired positive culture and a safe environment. Then, know that part of earning – and being paid for – your supervisory role is the responsibility to reason out circumstances that aren’t clear, or about which you can never have all of the detail, and know that you have been entrusted with that duty.

Confidence in approaching this conversation will come from the reasonable conclusions you’ve drawn about what happened, your knowledge of the people and processes involved, and getting a second opinion, if needed, from your own manager or board member, depending on your reporting structure and any problem review procedures. It can also be hugely helpful to rehearse the conversation mentally, or with your manager, or with Tenadel before you have the conversation.

It’s a rare person who is not averse to difficult conversations to some extent. If that aversion consistently makes it hard for you to do this type of task, you can ask a mentor, or a trusted friend how they prepare, or you can contact your organization’s EAP to work through your own feelings. Developing your mental tools for handling tough conversations can help you act fairly, with confidence and with a path to work around your aversion.

In any case, it’s only fair to the person with whom you need to talk and to their colleagues and team members, to have the conversation, understand as well as possible what happened and to seek a reasonable and realizable solution.