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Sunday, December 9 , 2018, 11:37 pm | Fair 52º


Karen Dwyer: Tough Conversations with Employees

Try these tips when addressing a worker about poor performance or other workplace issues

As a business owner or manager in your organization, you’re responsible for leading your employees in their careers and making sure they’re doing their jobs efficiently. When you have great employees, this aspect of your job can seem effortless. But eventually, you’re bound to come across an employee who doesn’t measure up to your company’s culture or standard of work. When this happens, it can make your job very difficult.

Karen Dwyer
Karen Dwyer

Having tough conversations with employees who are underperforming at work or having difficulties getting along with co-workers is not something any leader enjoys doing. It can be awkward and uncomfortable for both the employee and the boss.

But as a business leader, it’s crucial to meet these types of problems head-on. Failure to discuss issues with your employees could make problems worse. To help you make difficult conversations with your employees easier and productive, try these best practices.

» Don’t wait to address the issue. Once you notice there is a problem with a particular employee, don’t sit back and hope things work out. Deal with the issue immediately. Waiting to address an issue only intensifies the problem and sends mixed messages to your entire team on what will and will not be tolerated in the office. Meeting the situation head-on will let other employees know what is acceptable and create for a more productive work force.

» Get both sides of the story. When you initiate the conversation, make sure you give the employee an opportunity to explain the situation, especially if you’re addressing an offense reported by another employee. You want to make sure you get both sides of the story before you accuse an employee of an issue or blame it all on one person. By giving the employee an opportunity to explain his or her actions, you give yourself a better shot at understanding the situation, which can make the conversation a lot smoother and more productive.

» Avoid negative language. When you address an issue with an employee, avoid talking down to him or her or speaking in an aggressive tone. When you sound aggravated or speak forcefully, people tend to become defensive, so make sure you’re not attacking the person when you’re trying to solve a problem. The old saying holds true: You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. So, make sure to speak with a pleasant tone. You will get more results.

» Change your pronoun usage. When you have a tough conversation with an employee, using words that single people out such as “you” when addressing certain issues can make the employee feel attacked and keep him or her from really listening.

For example, if your employee has an issue with multitasking, don’t use this format: “You seem to have a problem with multitasking. How are you going to fix that?” Try addressing it this way: “I’ve noticed a problem with multitasking, and I have a few pointers that may help.” It’s less threatening if you focus on your observation and ability to help your employee — after all, that’s your job. Simply changing one word can do wonders for the positive feedback you receive from the employee. All of a sudden, you and your subordinate are a team and working together to resolve the issue.

Having conversations regarding an employee’s negative performance, attitude or other workplace issues can be tough. Most leaders prefer to have the positive conversations. But you can create a meaningful way of addressing problems and build a lasting impression on your employees by following these best practices when having difficult conversations with your team.

— Karen Dwyer is owner of Express Employment Professionals, 9 W. Figueroa St. Click here to contact her or call 805.965.6900.

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