Clean up Grudges and Get Back to Work

The instructor explained that a “Closure Conversation” is when you talk with someone to complete what happened in the past. “Just because you don’t like someone is no reason to be ineffective with them,” he said. “It’s like erasing a blackboard – you take all the old issues out of play and make room in your relationship for some new future, instead of the old one you were going to get if you just let things drift.”

Greg made a list of all the people he needed to have a closure conversation with: Jennifer, to clean up the complaints she had about her last performance review; Darryl, to get to the bottom of why his productivity has dropped so much, and why he isn’t talking in the team meetings anymore; and about 7 other people.

Then the instructor explained the four ingredients of a Closure Conversation: (1) Acknowledge the facts of what happened; (2) Appreciate the person or group for what they have accomplished; (3) Apologize for any mistakes or misunderstandings; and/or (4) Amend, revise, or revoke any broken agreements between you.

“I can’t have a Closure Conversation with Jennifer,” Greg said. “I really don’t like her or respect her. I bet she’s just waiting for me to apologize about that performance review, but she deserved it. She hasn’t met the standards of our unit, and she didn’t meet even half of the targets she promised. And I can’t see that she’s accomplished anything to appreciate her about. Plus, she’s the one who broke the agreements we had, not me.

The next week, Greg came back to class and said he had done all four steps. Here’s what he said to Jennifer. “First, I gave you a bad performance review. Second, I forgot to thank you for the work you did on bringing in the quarterly report on time and already formatted for the board meeting. Third, I’m sorry you were upset about the review, and I apologize that I didn’t talk with you about the targets I thought you should have met, because we could have made new plans for what to do about them. Finally, I’d like to take all the past targets off the table and start fresh with creating new ones in a conversation with you.”

“It worked,” Greg said, surprised. “She was glad to be able to re-start the whole performance discussion on a new footing. And even though I still don’t like her much, I have to admit she’s smarter than I thought she was. This is going to work.”


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