3 Useful Tips for Talking To An Employee About a Problem

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1. Label the Employee’s Emotional Reaction

When you merely label what you think your employee is feeling, you show your understanding while at the same time expressing empathy. Labeling is just naming what you observe. Don’t judge or harp on the issue. Here’s what labeling looks like.

“It sounds like you disagree with my perception of you coming across as terse.”
“It seems like you feel this expectation is unfair.”

Most employees respond to successful labeling by giving you much more detail as a way to justify their feeling. You can then take the information they hand you and have a dialogue about the real issue – their unacceptable behavior or performance.

If you don’t label and instead jump right into disciplinary action, you’re going to get resistance, so label as a way to invite dialogue and honest communication.

2. Put the Responsibility for Improvement On the Employee

You have a responsibility to train employees, coach, and give feedback. But the responsibility for change is on the employees, and sometimes you have to remind them of this. Be firm, but kind as you hand responsibility for improvement back to your employee.

“This is about you getting to work on time.”

“I need someone in this position who can consistently be on time, and I hope that person is you.”

3. Talk About How The Employee’s Actions Impact The Team

I’d misplaced the keys to my rental car on the second day of filming for a training course. As I rummaged through my purse for the third time and turned my hotel room inside out, my dominating thought was of the team I was inconveniencing. The makeup artist had an 8:30 am spot for me. Being late would throw off her entire morning. Then there’s the Producer who’d be expecting me to sit down for breakfast right at 9:15. Of course, all of this dominoes to make me late for lighting, where the Director, Light Tech, and everybody else would be waiting. My being late affected a whole lot of people and our well-planned schedule.

Employees need to see how their actions affect others. If your employee’s habitual tardiness is putting stress on the team, tell them like this.

“I know it may not seem like a big deal to you. But when you come in just twelve minutes late, the queue shoots up. This makes callers have to hold for a long time, and it puts pressure on your team. They don’t get a break between calls for after-call-work, and this makes our notes sloppy, and it stresses a lot of people out.”

The next time you sit down with an employee to talk about a problem, make sure you label their reaction, put the responsibility or change in their hands, and powder the conversation with how their issue impacts the team. When you do these things, you’re more likely to persuade your employee to make positive change.

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