If you manage employees at some point you have to have the tough talk. You know what I am talking about- the talk about poor performance, unacceptable behavior or the most dreaded conversation- hygiene issues. While these conversations are never easy they must be had. You owe it to the employee, you owe it to your employer and you owe it to yourself to step up to the plate and learn how have these conversations. I won’t promise it will ever be easy, after 25 years in the workplace as a manager and as a HR Director I still don’t like having to have this type of talk with an employee (who does?), but these tips will make it easier- and raise the odds the feedback will be accepted and the behavior will change.
Tips for Tough Talks- Address the problem as soon as possible- problems don’t go away, they just get bigger and more difficult to deal with the longer you wait. Set a specific time and place- but don’t make the employee wait for more than 24 hours after you let them know the tough talk is coming. Sit, don’t stand- it’s a converstation not an interrogation. Find a private location- maybe a neutral site like a conference room or another manager’s office. Focus on the issue, not the person. Discuss the problem and the impact on the business and avoid “you” statements. Be specific about the concern- how, what, when should all be part of the discussion. Be collaborative- problem solve, brainstorm solutions with the employee and the more likely they are to accept feedback. Accenuate the positive- how will a behavior change positively impact the employee? Encourage the employee- share with them how changing the behavior will have a positive impact. Document the meeting- for feedback session keep detailed notes, if a more serious violation use a Discipline Action Form. You must start the “paper trail” and have good documentation in case the final verdict is termination.
A great resource for handling tough talks is Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler and Stephen R. Covey.
Join the conversation- how do you handle tough talks with employees?