4 tips to make those difficult conversations go smoothly—and productively
Everybody has at least a few bad habits. But when employees bring a sack of them to work, they can drag down the whole office. And yet the thought of addressing the behavior—that is, opening a difficult conversation with the problem employee—can be daunting. But everything isn’t lost. Combat Employees’ Bad Habits With A ‘You Can Do Better’ Message.
The good news about bad habits is that they are often changeable—with the right motivation. You can confront negative workplace behavior—from bullying and gossiping to laziness—without destroying an employee’s self-confidence or willingness to change for the better.
Confront Bad Habits Before They Turn Toxic
Bad habits are not only annoying, they can quickly escalate such that they impact office morale.
After all, employees who create unnecessary drama and distraction suck the positive energy and creative brainpower out of the room, notes Harvard Business Review. Toxic behaviors also undermine corporate values, degrade the team culture, and breed cynicism when companies don’t hold employees accountable, further suggests HBR.
Do this: When faced with a problem employee, start by trying to understand why the individual displays negative behaviors. For instance, employees sometimes pick up bad habits and behaviors when they feel undervalued, pressured, or disrespected by their managers or peers, asserts Hacker.
No matter the cause, you can’t let it prevent you from intervening. “However difficult it may be, avoiding these conversations can lead to bigger problems in the workplace including a dysfunctional working environment and lack of performance from demotivated staff,” affirms HRD Connect.
4 Tips To Having That Difficult Conversation
Now that you know the underlying cause, you are better equipped to resolve the problem. Here are 4 tips to help you dive in to those difficult employee conversations:
- Make it about business. Don’t let the confrontation become a personal attack or a put-down. “Whenever possible, attach the feedback to a business issue,” recommends an article from The Balance Careers. After all, an unkempt appearance or annoying mannerisms do affect how co-workers and clients will want to—or not want to—interact with this employee and your organization. “Express directly the impact you believe the behavior is having on the employee’s potential promotions, raises, career opportunities, and relationships in the workplace,” the article continues.
- Choose your words carefully. “Your goal is for the person to be aware of the problem, and then to fix it. You don’t want to shame or embarrass them,” notes Workopolis. Make sure your words reflect that. How? Be honest, but respectful, avoid inappropriate language, and focus on the behavior and the impact it has on business, suggests Workopolis.
- Keep the conversation private. Don’t confront the employee in the hallway or at the watercooler. “A manager should discuss disturbing habits with an employee in private,” asserts an article from Chron. Schedule a meeting with the employee to discuss the problem, possible solutions, and a plan of action, and consider setting a date to revisit the issue at some point in the future, the article notes.
- Sandwich the problem. You can soften the blow by padding the problem with a complement before and after. “Start the meeting by taking the time to praise your employee and point out his or her importance to the company. Then address the problem, while acknowledging that it may be a difficult, uncomfortable discussion. Follow up by restating that the problem is minor, given the employee’s importance to the company, but that it must be resolved because they’re so valuable,” notes an Open Forum
Correct Bad Habits With Good Motivation
Make no mistake: One of your primary responsibilities as a human resources professional or manager is to drive desirable results through specific behaviors. The reason you have the uncomfortable conversation, after all, is to correct bad habits before your employee hurts his/her career and opportunities for promotions—as well as drags the rest of the team down with him/her.
With the right feedback and support, bad-habit employees can learn to embrace a new, more positive way to contribute.
(This post first appeared in a ProfEd blog)
By Amy P on 7th November 2019