What do you do when you have to demote a supervisor?
Tell an employee that his co-workers find him difficult to work with?
Turn down a request for a raise?
Nobody likes tough conversations – especially on the job. But as a manager, you’re paid to solve problems. Often, that requires initiating unpleasant, challenging or downright awkward conversations with employees.
Like most tough situations, it’s best to “grab the bull by the horns” instead of delaying a difficult conversation. Sure, procrastination is easier, but delaying the inevitable often makes problems worse. So if you’re faced with the prospect of instigating an uncomfortable employee conversation, get the ball rolling with these tips from A.R. Mazzotta. Our suggestions will help you handle the situation directly and professionally, and ultimately get the results you want:
- Act promptly. Tempted to wait for the “perfect time?” Don’t – because it may never come. As soon as you realize a conversation is necessary, use email or voicemail to request a meeting, tactfully outlining the purpose of your conversation. Choose a neutral location where you’ll have some privacy.
- Skip the small talk. If the subject is serious, get down to business immediately. Small talk isn’t necessary or appropriate in these situations, and it only prolongs an already uncomfortable situation. Don’t beat around the bush – move right into the heart of your conversation.
- Be direct. If your meeting is about a warning or disciplinary action, make your concerns clear from the outset. Then, provide context and evidence to support your claims. Your employee should leave the meeting knowing what the problem is, what he has to do to solve it, and what the consequences will be if he doesn’t. Follow your company’s policies for documenting the conversation, including obtaining signatures if warranted.
- Keep emotions under control. Don’t let frustration or anger get the best of you. Instead of reacting emotionally, shift your focus to solving the problem at hand. If your employee loses his cool, explain that now is the time to work on a solution – not vent.
- Be careful not to make assumptions. Allow your employee to present his side of the story and ask questions. By listening to what he has to say – and avoiding jumping to conclusions – you increase the likelihood that he’ll buy into the solution you develop.
These tips will work in a wide range of situations, but employee terminations are unique. If you’re faced with the prospect of firing an employee, make sure that termination is the best option and that you clearly understand At-Will Employment to protect your company.
What’s the most difficult conversation you’ve had with an employee? How did you handle it? We’d love to know. Tell us your story below!