Car Crash Conversations

I’m still reeling with the shock of witnessing an interview by a recruiter in a public place yesterday. It was a car crash. The recruiter took on a very superior almost suspicious stance when questioning his candidate – who (from what I could tell) was young, enthusiastic and well prepared. There were some cringe worthy moments, the recruiter stumbling over the discovery that this young man’s wife had died recently and then the recruiter’s shock that the candidate had religious commitments which would mean he couldn’t work on Fridays.  Really dreadful to witness this unfold in front of an accidental audience!

It made me think about the need to choose the right place for the right conversations. At The Geek People we are passionate about helping organisations to use performance management to deliver exceptional results for their business. Our philosophy is the emphasis needs to be on a regular quality conversations, rather than a box ticking exercise that pleases HR.

In my blog I shared some tips on giving feedback to colleagues although I didn’t mention location. Yesterday reminded me how we must think carefully though about where to have these conversations regardless of whether we are delivering an improvement message, interviewing someone or just having a catch up.

Some of the smaller companies I work with rely on local coffee shops for one to one meetings. This can be a great way to engage in conversation with colleagues that are broader than just the focus around work. There will be times though when more privacy is needed or when the music is so loud you can’t hear each other (yes that happened to me a week or so ago!).

Some golden rules to keep in mind:


  • Always consider the other person – you may know you have a positive message that you want to communicate to them but do you know how they are feeling at the moment, is there potentially anything confidential they need to share with you?


  • If you work virtually with your team in different countries, force yourself to not just have formal work catch-ups. How can you create coffees over Skype or FaceTime to just see how they are, show you are interested in them as people & get to know them better?


  • Job interviews, improvement feedback or where you aren’t sure of the other person’s reaction – go for privacy every time.


  • If you need to feedback on exceptional performance don’t just do this in passing, make the time to sit down & tell them exactly what you noticed, what the impact was & congratulate them. A delay of 24 hours (no more!) can really increase the impact of this feedback – and finding somewhere suitable to sit down & deliver this message is essential. The other person will walk tall after this conversation if you do this well and in the right place!


  • If you aren’t sure on the appropriate location, ask your colleague – that gives them an opportunity to input and make a suggestion.


  • If you have a foghorn like me, you probably need a room in most cases!


I think we struggle in organisations as much of our communication to groups has some sort of spin to deliver the right tone or message. When we are working one to one with our colleagues we have the opportunity to be more real and to encourage them to be authentic. This will only happen in the right place.

Have you seen The Geek People’s new tool that will assess your company’s approach to performance management?  Take a look here.  Need help? We would be delighted to hear from you.

Stephanie Hopper is co-founder of The Geek People @thegeekpeople. She specialises in leadership development, performance management and positive psychology at work. You can follow her @hoppersteph