Ten Tips for Confronting the Troublesome Employee
Nov 02, 2020
Confronting others about critical issues is very difficult for most people. It’s one of the most important duties you have as a leader. It can also be one of the most unpleasant. It’s been suggested you might substitute the word confront with clarify. I don’t think it matters what you call it, just as long as you deal with the issues at hand. To help you with these encounters, follow these ten tips to improve the outcomes of these meetings.
- Do your confronting in private. Avoid public confrontation unless the situation is an emergency, and harm might come to someone else. You want them to be receptive to the feedback you’re about to give. Public humiliation is a great way to ensure they do not correctly receive your message.
- Don’t dilly-dally. Confront them as soon as possible. You want the situation to be fresh in their mind. Humans naturally forget details over time. Often, our brains will create memories to fill in the gaps. This will happen more often when we wait to discuss the situation with the individual. Talk with them as soon as possible.
- Address one issue at a time. If there is more than one issue to discuss, don’t overload them with a long list of issues. Pick them more important, most pressing issues to discuss and focus on improving those first. Deal with the critical issues first, then move on to the secondary issues.
- Don’t be a broken record. Make your point once and stop. Harping on the issue does nothing but make them tune you out and disregard your concerns. Ask them to repeat what you’ve said so that you know they understand. Telling them the same thing more than once does not guarantee understanding or compliance.
- Know what they can and cannot control. Then focus on only what they can control and change. They should be held responsible for what they can control. To hold them accountable for what they cannot control is unreasonable and is a sure-fire way to build frustration in your relationship.
- Be serious and direct in your communication. Avoid sarcasm at all costs. People will always take sarcasm personally because it signals that you are angry at them, not at their actions. We want their actions and behavior to change. Once they begin to feel we are angry and demeaning towards them, they will begin to resent us and their behavior will only get worse.
- Watch your language. Do not use words like always and never. Everyone will immediately discount what you say if you use these words because there is very little in life that fits within those terms. They also make people defensive.
- Offer suggestions or ask questions instead of making outright criticisms. Starting with a few questions will help you determine their awareness of the situation and how quickly you will be able to resolve it. Use questions and suggestions to help them see the issue for what it is. Simply stating criticisms might make you feel better but will do little to change their behavior.
- Don’t be sorry about the confrontational meeting. Sometimes hard things must be done. Apologizing for them serves only to make you feel better and reduce the impact of the meeting. It also might signal to them you are unsure about what you’re discussing. Don’t leave any doubt in their mind by apologizing for doing your job as a leader.
- Some folks recommend a “compliment sandwich.” It’s when you Compliment-Confront-Compliment the individual. I disagree with this approach, particularly if the reason for the confrontation is serious. You may compliment them at the beginning, but I suggest you refrain from complimenting them at the end. Doing so can lead them to minimize the seriousness of the situation. As a leader, you want them to be fully aware of the situation, appreciate the gravity, and be spurred to take corrective action. Tacking on a compliment at the end is more for the leader’s feelings than the other person’s feelings.
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