Hiring the right talent in your business can be a struggle. Time and time again, SME owners say locking in enthusiastic and productive new staff is one of the greatest challenges they face when growing their company.
Even with the best of efforts and intentions, it’s likely you’ll have a lemon in your business at some point — an unproductive or low-performing employee, or even one with an attitude that doesn’t match up with the rest of the team. In those situations, business owners are often left with little choice but to go down the path of performance management and give the employee some much-needed feedback.
As disciplining an employee is likely something no business owner looks forward to, founder of leadership coaching business Leadership from the Core Marcel Schwantes has provided some tips in Inc for how to prepare for the difficult conversation.
Firstly, he stresses to not see feedback conversations as a negative. Instead, if conducted correctly, this types of conversation provide “constructive, future focus, … consistency, guidance, and valuable feedback both to and from the problem employee”.
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1. Be prepared
Schwantes advises business owners prepare to have the difficult conversation by getting across all the potential perspectives, including the employee’s and their own. Asking yourself the following four questions, and making sure the answer is yes to each of them, can help:
“Does the employee understand what the problem is?
Does the employee really understand the expected level of performance?
Does the employee fully understand what will happen if performance standards are not met?
Have you, as the manager, gotten all the facts? Who, what, where, when, why, and how?”
2. Know when the time is right
Catching the problem employee at a stressful period can lead to unnecessary confrontation or defensiveness on their part, so Schwantes advises business owners to be tactical about when to broach the subject.
“Great managers don’t delay. They’re proactive and aim to fix the problem sooner than later. But they’re wise enough to back off while tempers are high and will only engage the situation after a cooling-off period,” he says.
“Some managers prefer to address problems at close of business, the end of a shift, the end of the week, or just before some downtime. The smartest managers take into account what effect the discussions will have on the team.
“Great managers will always respect privacy. Some prefer a neutral location; others will put the employee at ease by coming to their work space, if secluded enough.”
3. Get ready to ask questions, and terminate if needed
Schwantes says you should be prepared to let the employee go if they’re still being disruptive even after talking things through, but all other avenues should be exhausted first, including asking a lot of questions.
“Ask lots of questions to uncover the heart of the problem. Most of the time, after some processing, the employee will acknowledge they’re the issue, because their managers exposed the problem and came to the truth,” he says.
“Some employees may even filter themselves out of the company as a result, saving everyone grief.”
He also advises to ensure you’re following all of your company’s proper HR guidelines and to document everything, lest you run into legal concerns. But if all else fails, be ready to let them go, he says.
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