You Get What You Tolerate (From Employees)


You get the behavior you tolerate. So, if your employees aren’t friendly, helpful, and showing empathy, you have to ask yourself, Have I been tolerating poor performance? Are you having conversations with your people about unacceptable performance? Are you coaching and holding employees accountable? If you want to see change, you have to set expectations, have coaching conversations, and be willing to deal out consequences.

Putting An End To Unacceptable Performance

Nipping unacceptable behavior or performance in the bud comes down to you doing four things. 1) You have to set clear expectations. 2) Then you must commit to addressing all issues that don’t meet your expectations. 3) You have to prepare in advance for coaching conversations, so you’re focused and confident. 4) And finally, you’re going to have to be willing to launch disciplinary actions for people who continue not to meet performance expectations.

1. Setting Clear Expectations

Pick up any package of cigarettes, and the label warns you: Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, and May Complicate Pregnancy. You can smoke that Winston if you want, but you already know what you can expect later.

You need to be as precise with your team as the Surgeon General’s warning when it comes to setting expectations. If you’re talking about attendance, for example, be crystal clear about what you expect. Like this, “Your shift is 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. You’re expected to be clocked in, wearing your headset and ready to take calls no later than 8:00 am. Walking in the building at 8:00am, or having coffee in the cafe at 8:00 is considered late.”

2. Prepare for Coaching Conversations

When I facilitate customer service training, I’ve been working on content and exercises for at least 60 days. I’ve held discovery discussions, mystery shopped or listened to a random sample of calls between employees and customers, and I’ve prayed over the event. You should prepare for conversations about performance with the same intensity that I prepare for training.

I have my clients prepare for conversations about performance by using the KFD approach. KFD stands for Know, Feel, Do. Before talking to an employee about a problem, think through exactly what you want the employee to know, how you want them to feel, and what you want them to do (differently).

Let’s say you’re going to talk to an employee about her tone or attitude with customers. Your KFD could look something like this:

Know – I want her to know her tone, defensiveness, and words are unacceptable. I want her to know how she comes across to customers, which is rude. I want her to know that her approach is giving customers a very poor experience.

Feel – It’s crucial that your employees know how their actions impact you; how you feel about their actions. Tell your employee how you feel: “I am disappointed in you, Lacy because I know you can do better; I’ve seen you do better.” Telling employees how you feel makes your remarks more authentic, and you are more likely to reach them with this level of authenticity.

Do – This is your action step. What do you need for your employee to do? Here’s one way to express your “do.”

“I need someone in this position who will speak with friendliness and warmth, and I hope that person is you. Lacy, I need the harshness in your tone, the defensive attitude, and resistance to helping customers to go away immediately. I have an online course I’ve arranged for you take and I will meet with you once a week for the next 4 weeks to provide feedback and coaching. Together, let’s transform your approach to customers.”

When you sit down and plan your KFD before meeting with employees, you go in focused and with more confidence. So, try KFD before your next difficult conversation with an employee.

3. Address Poor Performance

Don’t hold off on talking about performance problems hoping things will change on their own. Most of the time employees don’t self-correct. You need to make your expectations known and walk employees through what they need to do differently. Decide to have the discussion, and then quickly set aside the time. If you use KFD from above, you’ll be prepared and less likely to procrastinate.

4. Launch Disciplinary Actions (When Necessary)

If employees fail to make the changes you need to see, you’re going to have to deal out consequences. The upshot might be progressive discipline, up to and including termination. If you don’t follow through with consequences, nothing else you do will matter. You’ll lose all credibility with your team.

Will You Do It? (Put An End to Unacceptable Performance)

You knew before even reading my article that you get the behavior you tolerate. Now you also know the four things you must do to nip unacceptable performance in the bud. Will you commit to set clear expectations, preparing with KFD, having coaching conversations, and following through with consequences? I hope you say yes.

Continue the conversation with me?

On Friday, February 1st I’m facilitating a 45-minute webinar on How to Solve Your Biggest Problems with Coaching Employees. If you struggle to address unacceptable performance or behavior, you should join me.