Consultant Constructive Criticism

Constructive Criticism

For weeks, one of the biggest things on my mind as I worked side by side with a less than stellar consultant was, should I give him feedback on his performance. It was a challenging time as I was juggling three jobs. I had my own duties, I covered my vacationing partner’s duties, and I had to manage and train my consultant from time to time. I vented to a few close friends to stay sane and got a myriad of advice.

Two small business owners chimed in with almost the exact same advice. “You definitely should give him feedback. What if you decide to use him again? Your feedback can help him improve.” My rebuttal was because he was so unprofessional and he seemed to not really care for the job, I would do everything I could to warn the hiring managers not to hire him.

I really felt it was a waste of money and time. It also put additional strain on me. A co-worker who saw me weather the storm asked if it would have been better if management had not hired him. I quickly replied yes. Working side by side with someone who came and went as he pleased, took personal phone calls, and sometimes disappeared during the day, slowly wore on me.

My friends continued by saying I should not make my critique a personal attack. Going altruistic, one friend said what if my words change his life for the better? You give him your advice. You have done your part. It is up to him to listen and take the advice, but that is not under your control.

He challenged me to give him the feedback before the end of his contract so he has an opportunity to improve his behavior before the very end. The easy way out was to wait till the gig was over and the door was closing. Initially I was ready to take his challenge.

As I slept on it, I decided to wait to the end. As he was my company’s insurance policy for network disasters, I was concerned if he was such a low performer under normal circumstances, how would he react under crisis after hearing negative constructive criticism. At the last minute, another friend chimed in with “Be careful. What if he goes postal on you?”

Thankfully, Friday came and went without crisis. I decided to split the difference. As he shook my hand and was preparing to leave, I gave him this parting advice. “I am not in a position to hire, but as your colleague, can I give you a suggestion for your next contract? When they tell you your work hours, show up early and leave late, to give your hiring managers a good impression.”

He took it well and responded with this gem. “Thanks. But from the beginning, I knew this contract would only be for a few weeks. I approached it like a contractor. If I knew it was a full time position, I would have acted differently.” He spoke to my manager on the way out and he mentioned that my department was looking to hiring someone full time down the road. He seemed encouraged by the fact that since he already has a foot in the door, it would give him an edge over the competition. With that, he smiled, and was on his way.

It hit me later that his response seemed to just be an excuse for his unprofessional behavior. Is it even possible for someone to have a switch that goes from spotty consultant mode to high performing, full time employee mode? I caught up with my manager and debriefed him. He responded with a great analogy. “If my appetizer tasted this bad, would I really want to order the main course?” Touche. In the end, thank goodness we were on the same page. I might have resigned if he turned around and said he was going to hire him. In the past, I really would have taken the easy way out and left my mouth shut. I’m just happy I manned up, did what I had to do, and gave him a piece of my mind.

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