A client was discussing the challenges she was having with an employee. “She does good work,” she said, “but there are issues with her not showing up for work, being late for meetings, or not functioning well as a member of the team.”

Ummm…that’s not doing good work.

I urged her to reframe her perspective and, more importantly, her language. The employee may be good at X tasks, but “work” needs to be more broadly defined to encompass operating effectively within the norms and expectations of the organization. “Good work” includes being present, engaged, a team player, etc. — not just performing XYZ tasks.

If the employee hears that they are doing “good work, but…” it’s a mixed message. They may wonder: “Am I doing good work or not?”

While the employee may be good at certain things, if the supervisor is talking to me about it in a coaching session, something else is going on besides “good work.” Feedback needs to be specific, clear, and direct if you hope to affect behavior change. “Good work” is far too broad.

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