Most workplaces operate in an open plan environment therefore have breakout rooms in which to hold meetings. Often we use the same meeting rooms for all manner of workplace discussions including performance management meetings, debriefs, and counselling. If the meeting room is in view of the employee’s work colleagues then this can affect their ability to hear your message.
When the same room is used solely for performance and formal meetings where discussions are centred on improvement then it may not be such an issue. Just be aware that the employee is wondering (worrying) more about whether they are in trouble than what you are saying. The message is lost because of heightened emotions. That’s why it is important to get your message out early.
An often used technique in performance improvement meetings was the praise sandwich, sometimes called the s**t sandwich. The reason for the latter phrase is because the bad part of the conversation is discussed between two good things. What happens when you use this technique is that the person hears only the good things that they are doing, then you said something about what they could do better and then you said something good. Guess what the person hears, “I’m doing really well”. Forget the praise sandwich, get to the point. What are they doing wrong, what is the result, and how can they improve. Short and simple. It’s about the way that you deliver the message not the message itself that will annoy people so work out how you are going to deliver your message before the meeting.
If you are meeting to discuss a personal issue with the employee, your message will definitely get lost if you use the same room as you do for performance meetings. The employee thinks that they are entering the room for a performance discussion only to be told that you want to talk to them about a personal issue. While well-intentioned, the employee's emotional state will increase due to relief and apprehension, relief that they aren't in trouble and apprehensive about what you are going to say.
Additionally, the employee will be wondering how they are going to explain to their colleagues that it wasn't a performance meeting you were discussing but a personal issue that the employee may not want to disclose. Then there is the problem of what the colleagues are thinking if the employee doesn't disclose what the meeting was about - is it good or bad, does it affect me, am I going to lose my job? If the employee exits the room in tears, you can double the emotional impact on everyone.
To overcome this dilemma, try to hold meetings in a variety of breakout rooms and preferably out of sight of other employees. Definitely don't hold meetings of a personal nature in the room where you hold other meetings, meet off site in an informal setting such as a Café. This will ensure the employee is not so stressed and if they become emotional their colleagues won't see.