Practical Tips for Addressing Issues with Employees

It’s never easy to tell someone they are doing something wrong, and it is especially hard if you’ve put off doing it. It’s easy to hope that a minor issue will go away. But it also doesn’t help anyone to let an issue linger. Think about the effect it has on other employees who may see someone getting away with shoddy work. Or think about how much time you are wasting worrying about talking with the staff person. Not to mention that the staff person can’t correct the problem if they don’t know it is an issue.

So whatever is bothering you, take the time to talk through it as soon as possible. You’ll be saving everyone time and stress. If you approach the problem from the perspective of helping them work through an issue, and can build up a relationship of trust, it will make it much easier to address bigger problems later on. To be a good leader, you need to help your staff figure out solutions to issues proactively.

Here’s some phrases that can work well to start a conversation about an issue:

  • May I make a suggestion?
  • Can I give you something to consider?
  • Help me understand….

Here are a few phrases to use during the conversation.

  • Here’s what happened when I made a mistake like this.
  • Were you aware….?
  • How might [this problem] be solved?
  • The organization (or our clients) really need X (softens the request to be about the greater good, not something you personally are requesting)
  • What I need from this position is….

Be careful not to sugar coat what you need to say and leave the employee confused about the problem. Even though the conversation will feel awkward for you, remember it is even worse for them. Of course, also document the discussion so you have it for future reference.

How can you avoid getting yourself into this situation again in the future? Good communication is the key to success. Here are a two key ways to do that:

  • Schedule weekly checks in with everyone who reports to you and keep them short. Set a limit of 15 minutes, and remind them to focus on the most important topic first. (To keep yourself on schedule, plan another meeting right afterwards.) It will take some time for each person to adjust to this format. You may need to help them decide whether they should address something in person or via email.
  • Of course, if someone is doing great work, tell them that right away, too. Keep it separate from discussing problems so it feels like a real compliment. Having that discussion will also help them be more ready for corrective conversations when they need to happen.

Need to talk through an issue with an employee? A fresh perspective can really help you create a plan. Let’s set up a time to chat – you can contact me here.

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