Ask the Expert: Gentle Advice for Tough Conversations

Shelley SmithBlog, Executive Coaching, Leadership Development, Predictive Index, Video Blog


Our ongoing series called “Ask the Expert.”  

 This week’s question . . . 

Q: Help! I hate confrontation and I have to talk with an employee about poor work performance. What should I say?

A: While conversations about employee performance can be tough, they aren’t impossible. Use the following tips to help you focus on the issues at hand, not the personalities.

1.) Make sure the right person is having the conversation with the employee. Is the issue about intangible interpersonal skills, such as communication? Or maybe it’s about a training issue? Perhaps it is a clear disciplinary issue that should be handled by a direct supervisor or human resources? Figure out the problem you’re dealing with, and then decide who in your company has the authority and knowledge to address it.

2.) Be direct, firm and fair. Good old-fashioned honesty and politeness go a long way in making a hairy topic a lot easier to deal with. Also be consistent. Don’t reprimand Susie and not John if both are engaging in the same undesirable behavior. People talk, and you don’t want resentment to build up over what other employees may perceive as preferential treatment.

3.) Don’t point fingers. Have you been clear about your expectations? Double check your own actions and do a little digging before you say someone isn’t doing his or her job. If you have done your research and discover there is indeed an issue, don’t just point out what is wrong. Instead, figure out how you can fix it – together. Also be sure to cover how to address the issue the next time it crops up. Reaffirm your expectations.

4.) Be genuine when doing performance reviews and set consistent schedules for when you will check in with employees. Instead of conducting big reviews once a year, do them more frequently. When you use them for their intended purpose – talent development – instead of an exercise to give a rate increase, you will be better able to spot problems and stop them before they start.

5.) Document everything in the employee file. Too many times a manager gets upset and all of a sudden an employee isn’t a peak performer anymore, but when HR takes a peek at the file there is nothing there. It’s even worse when the employee was rated as “fine” or “good” on the last performance review.





For more information on I.M.P.A.C.T. Leadership™, contact or visit Drop me a line with any additional questions or comments.