Business Practice: Delivering difficult feedback

What message should you send to an eager—but struggling—subordinate?

Credit: Joey Guidone

Dec 17, 2018

Business Practice is a collaboration between Chicago Booth Review and Chicago Booth’s Harry L. Davis Center for Leadership. Tell us how you’d deal with the situation below; once you submit your answer, you’ll be able to read and evaluate other readers’ answers, and they’ll be able to read and evaluate yours. Shortly after we stop accepting new answers, we’ll post an analysis of the results by Chicago Booth professor of behavioral science George Wu, and if you like, we will follow up with a personalized email explaining how other readers responded to your answer. Check out analysis of past Business Practice scenarios here.

You manage a team of analysts at Trend Line, a market-research firm. Their role is to collect data on the restaurant industry and compile it in written reports. The reports are recognized as among the best in the business, in part because they are easy to read. Because of this, you value your analysts as writers as much as researchers.  

You hired Stephanie as an analyst about six months ago, and several of her assignments have come due. She has mentioned that it was a joy to write the reports and that she is excited to get feedback from you. But there’s a problem: her prose is awful, almost unreadable. It has problems that go way beyond the stray typo. 

This morning, she came by your office and asked how you liked the reports. You hardly knew what to say, so you asked her to come back in the afternoon to talk. She smiled, said yes, and bounced out the door. 

What do you say to her when you meet?

This Business Practice scenario is now closed to new responses. Thank you to everyone who offered their insights and helped evaluate answers. Check back soon for George Wu’s analysis of the answers we received.