Need to Have Those Tough Conversations with Employees? Here’s How

It’s the conversation most managers dread. Maybe you have a great employee who suddenly is underperforming. You’re aware of the Great Resignation so you’re under pressure to retain your current staff. But the employee is slipping and it’s affecting customers, productivity, and the team. What can you do? We have tips that will help you have that crucial conversation with your employee in a way that’s effective, humane, and worry-free.

Preparing for a Crucial Conversation

One of the things managers often fail to do before launching into a difficult conversation with their employees is to think about it from their perspective first. Do you know what the problem with your formerly great worker is? What’s causing the slump in their behaviors? Try listening to what’s going on around you to see if you can discern whether this might be a temporary issue or one that needs to be dealt with.

For example, there could be a problem at home that’s affecting work. Or, the employee could just be burning out on their existing position and may need a change. It could even be worry associated with a health problem—or something else. Managers who know their employees and understand where they’re coming from can make much better decisions about approaching delicate conversations about performance with a valued employee.

In this instance, your approach is more coaching and less punitive. You have an opportunity here to lead by the carrot and not the stick. Frankly, that’s a good approach across the board, no matter the employee. Why? Because you can’t make an employee work in your organization—but you can create an environment in which they want to work. It’s a critical difference that many managers simply do not grasp.

So, how do you, as the manager even start these difficult conversations? If you’re coaching someone, Fast Company says,“The first step…is to make the person feel valued and safe.” Consider taking the employee out for a meal or coffee instead of calling them into your office, an area that may be associated with being “in trouble.” Lead with recognizing the employee’s contributions and being positive about what the person has added to your team. Fast Company recommends three key steps in this process:

  1. Begin on a human (and humane) note. Treat it less like a lecture and more like a one-on-one conversation between two people. Talk about how much you value the employee and ask them what they think their biggest contribution has been. Then ask if they feel like it’s been difficult to repeat their success. Finally, ask why—and listen.
  2. Lead the conversation toward some action items to improve. You should come in with some ideas about what you are looking for, but you should be flexible according to what you hear from your employee.
  3. Create an awareness of how the employee has affected the team. Sometimes discussing the ripple effect that a lack of behavior has created will snap the person back into awareness about changing the behavior. Work toward providing the employee with the support they need to improve.

Get in Touch with Our Recruiters

Even if the conversation is a difficult one, it doesn’t have to end on a bad note. You might find that your employee feels overwhelmed with their workload, and the answer is to give them additional help. That’s where ADD STAFF can support your team and organization. We provide companies with industry-leading talent and can help you meet your hiring goals. Contact us today to find out more.