Some of the toughest conversations that we are confronted with as managers occur when addressing poorly performing employees. Whether it is based on the employee’s results, their skills and experience, their behaviour and attitude or more serious issues of bullying and misconduct; these conversations can be tough, and as a result they are often avoided.

As you are probably aware, if these issues are not managed promptly and in the correct manner, they can continue to build within the workplace and have the propensity to affect staff productivity and workplace culture.

So how do you manage these tough conversations? Here are some simple steps to educate yourself and your managers on how to prepare for these difficult conversations and ensure you manage the problem effectively from beginning to end:

Prior to the Meeting:

  • Address the matter as soon as possible
  • Set a specific time and place for the conversation, ensuring you give the appropriate notice
  • Offer a support person if you are undergoing a formal process as it is a legislative requirement
  • Be prepared:

o Gather all relevant information relating to the issue

o Understand what the purpose or objective is of the discussion

o Remove any emotion and ensure you focus on the problem, not the person

o Understand their personality – this will assist you to predict how they will react and engage during your conversation

o Be ready for bad reactions – unfortunately these will occur at times, however it is best to remain composed, be empathetic yet firm, and demonstrate your point by producing further examples

During the meeting:

  • Be specific about your concerns and ensure you provide detailed examples
  • Allow the person the opportunity to respond, be prepared to listen and consider their responses
  • Remain composed and solutions-focused
  • Set clear expectations with the employee through informal goal-setting or a formal development plan
  • Advise what the consequences are of not improving
  • Set review or follow-up dates – it is important to monitor performance to ensure your expectations are being met

After the meeting:

• Document the meeting so that you have a record of your concerns, your expectations and the action plan

• Monitor performance and provide support, feedback and training where necessary

• Assess the need for further performance management

By following the outlined steps, you will ensure that the issues are approached from an impartial point of view, and that your message is conveyed clearly and constructively. More importantly, the employee will become aware of how they are impacting the business and their colleagues and will have access to a clear action plan detailing how to rectify the issues in question.

These steps will also ensure procedural fairness and compliance and minimise risk for your business. Most importantly however, following a structured process will allow you to confront these issues head-on; ultimately resulting in productive employees and a strong and positive workplace culture.

Sue-Ellen Watts – Managing Director, wattsnext

Sue-Ellen Watts wattsnextSue-Ellen is the Managing Director of HR firm wattsnext which specialises in working with small to medium sized businesses to help them achieve amazing business. She has a background in leading teams, strategic recruitment and leadership coaching and now specialises in HR Management, staff performance, HR Compliance and recruitment. Sue-Ellen started her business in her spare bedroom with the aim of providing the same support to small to medium sized businesses that larger corporations received but was not available to them. Her business has now grown to over 150 clients and 12 staff members.

Image source: Ronny Richert