How to Have a Difficult Conversation About Work Performance with a Challenging Employee

One of your many roles as a manager is to keep harmony in the workplace. When one employee isn’t pulling their fair share of the workload, it can be upsetting to other hard-working members of your workforce. When this happens, you need to have a conversation with the slacking employee—and this already-awkward conversation can be even worse when you know the person will respond defensively to your discussion. Still, you have to do something because left unchecked, bad behavior can be a detriment to your entire team.  

Five steps to broach difficult conversations

You can ease the employee’s mind (and your own) when you follow these steps from one of the leading providers of hiring support in Georgia—Happy Faces Personnel Group: 

  1. Get the facts. Fire and foremost, never base your conversation on heresay and assumptions. Depending on what’s been going on, even your observations may not be enough. If the employee hasn’t been completing their tasks or meeting their goals, you’ll need evidence of the behavior. For example, this could be a time log showing they’ve been arriving late or leaving early, or decreased numbers if their sales quota is low. You’ll need evidence that illustrates your concerns. 
  2. Appoint a witnessSchedule time one-to-one with the employee with whom you need to speak, but include a third-party witness, if you can. This is especially important if you feel the conversation has the potential to veer out of control. A member of Human Resources is usually your best choice as a witness for your meeting.  
  3. Be positiveYour goal is to help the employee understand how their behavior impacts the entire team, as well as the company overall. You could open your conversation by explaining the importance of their role and then saying you’re concerned with their recent performance and what it means for the “big picture.” State you want to help the employee do their very best and you’re open to discussing their ideas for improvement. Then, offer your own suggestions and form a plan together.  
  4. Keep it confidentialIf you’ve received feedback alerting you to the employee’s behavior or lack of performance, this must stay 100 percent confidential. You could say something like, “It’s been brought to my attention that…” and explain the stated concerns. It’s important to protect the privacy of other employees, as well as your conversation with the difficult employee.  
  5. Follow up. This is the best way to help the difficult employee stay on track. Once you make a plan for improvement, schedule time to follow up each week. You can review the employee’s progress, which can be very motivating. You can also keep tabs on a lack of progress or worsened behavior, which will alert you to take more serious steps.  

Be consistent

An important way to avoid conflict and negativity is to hold all employees to the same standards. So if you’ve had a conversation with one employee about a particular concern, you must speak to others who break the same rules.  

It helps to get the right staff in place

You can minimize conflict and poor workmanship in your business when you get the right staff in place. If you’re looking for new employees in the Atlanta area, check out Happy Faces Personnel Group! To learn more, contact us today.  


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