Supervisors have bittersweet roles: while they are able to use their expertise to lead teams to be successful and offer promotions and raises, they are also the ones who need to present the not-so-good news, and have the hard talks with their employees.
There are many reasons why you may need to broach a sensitive conversation with an underling; they may not be working hard enough, coming in late, missing too much work, or simply have a poor attitude. Or, you may be concerned about the employee’s health, personal life or habits. Either way, managers need to be able to speak to their staff about any of the topics above. Use the guide below to get tips on how to broach the topic in the best manner.
Privacy – The number one rule about having a difficult conversation with a staff member is to do it in private. The workplace is usually a small and tight space, and it is not always easy finding a good place to talk. Even an office or a conference room can have thin walls, making it easy for other colleagues to overhear. You can ask the employee to come in early or stay after the others have left to have your discussion.
Start With Questions – No matter what you need to bring up, start with asking the person if everything is alright with him or her. If a team member has started to miss a lot of days, or his or her performance has plummeted, first ask if anything has happened to affect the workflow. This gives the worker a chance to share any issues or bring up problems that he or she may have without you assigning blame or bringing up under performance right away.
Be Positive – If this is the first time you are bringing up the topic to this specific individual, try to be positive. Whether you are concerned about the person, or need an attitude improvement, state your concern, and then explain that you believe that he or she can definitely improve with this feedback. This will present the employee with motivation to do better.
Follow Up – If you have had a conversation with a team member already, remember to follow up on it. If the situation has not improved, you need to have a harsher discussion where you should state repercussions that will be enforced if no change happens. Even if the person has made a complete turnaround, you must follow up to make sure the employee knows you have been watching him or her, and appreciate the efforts made to improve.
While no one looks forward to having a difficult conversation with someone who works for them, sometimes the situation is unavoidable. However, if the discussion is handled in the right way, it can lead to major improvement on the side of the employee, which will not only be better for the company, but for that individual, as well.
Head of Training and Development
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