You can put off having difficult conversations with employees about negative behavior and poor performance, but you can’t avoid those discussions forever.
By delaying the inevitable, you risk the chance of escalating your dread into chronic anxiety. Perhaps you’re concerned about saying the wrong things and hurting someone’s feelings. You may be worrying yourself sick over possibly making the situation worse. In truth, the energy you waste fretting about outcomes would be better spent on more constructive efforts.
More than likely the problem won’t go away by itself, so now is the time to focus on gathering the courage to proceed. Take a few moments to analyze your intentions and formulate a plan, then continue the process with confidence.
- Prepare. Get ready to handle the situation in a calm, centered manner. Ask yourself these questions: Why am I going to have this conversation? What do I hope to achieve? What am I feeling about the situation and this employee? Is this person aware of the problem? What are the employee’s intentions, needs and fears? How has each of us contributed to the problem?
- Begin the one-on-one with inquiry. Ease into the difficult conversation by saying something like “I want to discuss something that will help us both work together more effectively.” Reveal the topic of the meeting with concise words that convey caring, concern and respect. Ask questions to indicate your interest in learning the employee’s point of view. Make sure to acknowledge that you hear and understand what the employee is saying.
- Work together to solve the problem. Clarify your position on the subject without minimizing what you have just heard from the employee. Brainstorm together by asking the employee for solutions and then building upon those ideas. End the difficult conversation by defining concrete performance goals, deadlines and consequences. Most important, keep the discussion dignified so the employee walks away with self-esteem intact.
What difficult conversation have you been putting off and how do you plan on handling the situation now?