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How to Go About Tough Employee Conversations

talking to employees

talking to employees4 Ways You Can Initiate Tough Conversations
With Employees and Have People Take Accountability

Congratulations! You’ve reached that time in your business where you have to have a tough employee conversation. Yuck. No one likes this, and if you’ve got a great team behind you (I’m lucky enough to have a team of unicorns) you don’t have to have the discussions too often, but it still happens. When it does happen you need to be able to have that conversation. Delivering negative feedback isn’t easy, but it’s a necessary part of being a manager and a team leader. 

So, everything’s been going swimmingly, everything looks like it’s going well, yet something happens, someone ballses up somewhere, something goes wrong, a client’s unhappy, their performance isn’t good, or their hygiene’s bad. Whatever the case may be, you need to be able to have that delicate conversation, and there are many ways you can go about it.

Try Not to Offend

One of the things that I had to do early on was, we were replacing some of the office furniture, I needed to be sure that the chairs that I was buying were going to be suitable for all of the candidates that would be sitting in them. It’s very impolite to ask for anyone’s weight, so the way I overcame this was handed the brochure around and asked everyone to pick the chairs that they wanted. Now, that kind of worked, except everyone wanted a Herman Miller chair. So it kind of worked, but you’d be able to look at the specifications. You don’t want to offend someone, and you definitely don’t want to alienate them, so having the discussion can be a difficult thing.

Have Standard Operation Procedures

What do you do if it’s a problem because of a lack of working in the way they should be working or rather not working in a position they should be working? The best way I’ve found is to make sure you’ve got supporting documentation, standard operating procedures and knowledge base articles. If you have those things, you can rely on them and say, “This is what we were meant to be doing. I appreciate the way that you’ve gone about doing this. Is there any reasons why this process wasn’t working for you?” and then have the document moulded and rectified into a way that works for them and works for you. If, for whatever reason, they can’t understand the document, have them go through it, go through it with them, and then re-read and re-write the document in their words. Have them re-write it, and have them go through, so they understand the process.

Read: 11 Tips to Help Your Employees Operate at Their Full Potential

Hygienic Problems

Hygiene problems can stink, and that’s something that isn’t as easily adhered to with a conversation that you don’t want to have. You don’t want to have that conversation. The conversation stinks. The whole process stinks. Just making them aware that people have brought it to your attention. You don’t want them to be embarrassed, but you definitely want them to be able to fit in with the work environment in a positive way, so have them try and see the benefits. That doesn’t always work, especially if they’re not aware that they have a hygiene problem so you could go the blindfolded, full gun approach of just having everyone start to put a deodorant right first thing in the morning, like getting liced at school. Just do the whole class to stop embarrassing that one kid that keeps getting head lice.

Performance-Based Problems

All in all, though, if it is a performance-based problem, or you need to have a discussion around the way that something was done, the best way I find to do it is the same way a psychologist would do it, and that’s have them answer the question to the problem. If you can word it so that they can see that there is a better way to do something, have them own the situation, and they’ll never make the mistake again. They won’t feel like they’re in trouble. They’ll have a lot of respect for the flow because it’s something that they’ve created.

giving feedback to employees

Try This Out

There’s a fun game that I like to play at parties, where you think of a word and then you have to try and have the other person say that word without you saying that word, and they don’t even know they’re playing the game. A good example would be, you start talking about how beautiful the animals are in Thailand, to have them come back and say, “I love elephants,” and the keyword is elephants. If you get very good at this, you can have other people say the words that you’re thinking. If you get really good at this, you can then have other people start to resolve the problems that you’re seeing, and have them take complete ownership over the situation, as they would have been the one that brought it up. Anyone would undeniably agree that they brought up elephants first, not you. You were just talking about animals in Thailand. So that is a process that, if you refine and you distil down, you can do really, really well in business and have people take accountability, take ownership.

The Final Word

I hope this has been of use and you can employ some of these tips in your business to make sure those yucky conversations are a little bit more pleasant. If you have enjoyed this, make sure to jump onto iTunes and leave us some fantastic feedback, and hope you’re all having an awesome day. Stay good.


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