5 tips for when you dread a difficult conversation with an employee

Remind them, it’s not personal.

Recently a client told me that while she was having a discussion with a direct report about a violation of the dress code the person erupted, quit on the spot and immediately left the office. My client was new to her role and this set back wreaked havoc on her confidence. Together we role played the conversation and how to depersonalize it.

What I found most interesting is that the company rehired the person who had abandoned the workplace. The very day she walked off the job she assumed another leadership role in another location. What???

Now my client must manage a team who knows the organization will tolerate unprofessional and insubordinate behavior. She must gain respect from a team who knows they don’t have to listen or adhere to company policy to keep their job. And she is asking herself what just happened because she used to like her job.

We are now positioning her transferable skills for a position in a company where people live the values that hang on the wall. You can learn more about how to define, grow and position your transferable skills for advancement here. In the meantime this is what I shared with her on how to prepare for a difficult conversation with an employee.

1. Get out the company policy or company value they are violating

Seek alignment and understanding.

2. Open the discussion with curiosity

Tell them you understand how they might not be thinking about this policy/value (builds alignment) and ask them if they knew about it. Show them the document. At that point they will see where you are going with the conversation and begin to comment.

3. If they become argumentative make the discussion be about their behavior versus the policy – not them versus you

Remove yourself from the equation. No emotion. It is them versus the document – them versus the values/policy of the organization.

4. Listen. Affirm. Be firm on the rule

If they get defensive and the conversation is not moving forward, ask them if they were you what would they do.

5. In the end remind them this isn’t personal

Thank them for their consideration and cooperation in respecting the policy/value. As employees we all have to align with the goals and values of the organization.