How to Get Through Difficult Conversations With Your Employees

While getting called into the boss’ office to get reprimanded can be a stressful situation for any employee, most managers will tell you these conversations can be just as stressful for them.

Unfortunately, these stressful conversations cannot be avoided. If an employee isn’t following company guidelines or meeting expectations, they need to be told and guided toward a change in behavior. An even more stressful, yet necessary, conversation may have to be held after that to terminate an employee if they do not turn their performance around.

In addition to the emotional burden these talks place on both owner and worker, there is also a legal significance to conversations involving discipline or termination. Furthermore, if a manager is effective at handling tough talks, it means they are successfully coaching individual employees and boosting team performance as a result. This in turn could lead to recognition and reward for a skilled manager.

Below are a few suggestions on how to navigate difficult conversations with employees.

Don’t avoid it

First of all, recognize when one of these difficult conversations must be had. Too many managers avoid them and hope that either the employee turns it around on their own, or the behavior gets so bad, the person must be terminated in order to resolve the situation.

You need to support your team members both when they are doing good work and when they are underperforming, and this means scheduling a meeting with them. You shouldn’t blindside the person by hauling them into your office without notice, and you also shouldn’t schedule a meeting too far in advance – which would keep them in a stressful state of limbo.

Determine the root cause

When you meet with the employee, be open to the idea that the person may not be completely at fault for the situation. For instance, perhaps job assignments were poorly defined or there was a communication breakdown.

If the worker is in fact at fault, a performance evaluation can allow them the opportunity to make changes. Remind the worker what is required of them and that prolonged failure to carry out their job duties properly will lead to dismissal.

It is important to be as honest as possible and lay out objectives to guide the employee back to the right path. You should also emphasize it is the behavior that needs changing, not the person.

Moving forward

At the end of your conversation, write out established goals and deadlines and have the worker sign the form. This written document clearly defines poor performance for you and the employee.

It is also important the employee understands the consequences meeting necessary goals by the set deadlines.

When wrapping up, tell them when you will follow up and be sure to uphold your end of the bargain, tracking the employee’s progress and holding them accountable.

At LTI, we support managers in all of the responsibilities, including the reprimanding and termination of employees. If you are looking to partner with a staffing firm with that level of commitment, please contact us today.