4 Tips for Difficult Employee Conversations

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As an IT manager, there will be times when you need to address employees regarding performance issues, conflicts, or other difficult topics. Although this can be challenging, it needs to be done sooner rather than later. You need every employee functioning as a cohesive unit to keep the company moving forward.

Implement these four tips to effectively handle challenging employee discussions:

 

1. Include a Witness  

Ask a manager or HR professional to be present during your conversation. This is especially important when discussing policy violations, behavioral issues, or anything that involves disciplinary coaching. Brief your third party on the situation to make sure you understand each other’s roles and responsibilities before the talk.

2. Remain Positive

Maintain an open line of communication with a coaching style of dialogue. This helps the employee avoid becoming defensive and argumentative. Begin by asking simple questions such as “How’s everything going?” or “Can I have a few moments of your time to talk about some feedback about your behavior?” Clarify exactly what the issue is and specific examples of how the employee can improve. Include facts and data to support your statements. For instance, “I have some suggestions for what we can do. Can you share some ideas so we can reach this goal?” Provide the necessary tools, resources, and support to reach milestones for improvement and measure success. Finish the conversation on a positive note.

3. Tie the Issue to the Business

Point out how the issue creates a concern for the team or company. For instance, consistent absenteeism may mean that teammates have to add to their already full workload to ensure tasks get done on time. Or, a conflict with a coworker can make it more difficult for employees to collaborate on projects. This shows your main focus is on the company, not the employees’ personal lives. Work with the employee to create a plan to improve and a job-related consequence if they do not. Making the employee feel heard is empowering and encourages them to do better.

4. Maintain Confidentiality

When addressing a conflict between employees, keep the conversation limited to those involved. Make sure they understand that what they disclose may need to be shared with others. Meet individually with the employee you received feedback about and others who witnessed the incident to discuss their behavior. Use the information you gather to determine what happened. Work with the employees to find a fair resolution. Hold everyone accountable for keeping with the final agreement.

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