Leadership Tips for Handling Difficult Employee Conversations

January 6, 2012

As part of any leadership or management role, at some point in time you will be faced with having to have a difficult conversation with a subordinate employee. This can happen for a variety of reasons, from providing constructive criticism to taking disciplinary action. Ether case, a conversation like this can be nerve-wracking for even the most seasoned of leaders, but cannot be avoided for long.

The way in which you handle a situation like this can say much about your leadership style, so you will want to be prepared to make this a positive experience for all parties involved. Here are some leadership tips for handling those difficult employee conversations.

Keep the conversation private. The most important thing to remember as you initiate a difficult conversation is that all employees deserve a level of privacy and respect. Hold the meeting in an office out of earshot of others. Allow the employee to be relaxed by inviting him to sit down with his or her immediate supervisor or a member of human resources present.

State the purpose for the conversation. From the onset of the conversation, be sure to state clearly the purpose of the meeting and what you hope to accomplish. This sets the stage for making positive progress, rather than beating around the bush and making the employee guess what the problem is. This can actually help to open up honest dialogue instead of making the employee feel threatened.

Get to the point, but do so respectfully. There’s no sense putting this off any longer. Let the employee know the specific issue that needs fixing in a direct, yet respectful way. Provide a clear example and what you would rather see instead. This gives the employee direction as to where the conversation needs to go next.

Give the other person a chance to respond. It takes two people to have a conversation so the best leaders understand how important it is to listen to the other side. Allow the employee to process a response and don’t try to fill the silence with your own great wisdom.

Accept responsibility for your role. Part of being a good manager is to accept responsibility for your side in things. Whether you have neglected to provide enough information, or the employee needs more guidance, take personal responsibility for this and apologize to the employee – yes that’s right – apologize.

Provide support to the employee. Now is the time you will ask the employee what he or she needs to improve things. This is when you offer feedback and support to the employee, to ensure it will never come to this again. The key to effective leadership is empowering others to be their very best.

Learn more about effective leadership skills when you enroll in a Dale Carnegie course in 2012!

This post is brought to you by the good folks at Dale Carnegie Training of Philadelphia and Allentown, providers of professional development and management development courses and information in Philadelphia and Allentown. We would love to connect with you on Facebook.

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