Having difficult conversations is never easy. However, it is a crucial part of being an effective leader. While it may be easier for a leader to ignore poor performance and staff feuds, delaying the conversation may tear down workplace culture. Similarly, it can negatively impact employee productivity.

66% of the employees dealing with a toxic team member said their performance declined.

Harvard Business School

As our Studer Education leader, Dr. Janet Pilcher, teaches, “What we permit, we promote.” In other words, if leaders allow behavior that violates values, they might as well encourage it.

Tips for addressing negative behavior:

  • Be clear about values and standards (and be sure to model those values)
  • Gather evidence; use facts and examples of employee’s behavior
  • Be direct and explain how to improve behavior
  • Focus on the problem and not the individual
  • Be empathetic and compassionate
  • Do not allow interruptions (“Please hear me out”)
  • Explain the consequences
  • Follow-up to show your support, verify that changes are being made, and ensure that the employee knows that you are serious

It is well known that very few people like confrontation because it is awkward. But here are some reasons that leaders may avoid difficult conversations:

  • They challenge the workplace culture
  • Employees and leaders have different definitions for values
  • Employees may get defensive or offended
  • It is hard to find the right words

Four steps to conduct a “Stub Your Toe” Conversation with those who violate values:

  1. Communicate what you value about the employee with positive intent
  2. Describe the behavior you witnessed and how it was inconsistent with organizational values
  3. Clarify the expectation and the impact on your team and organization, etc.
  4. Reaffirm the employee’s value

Do not let difficult conversations wreck your efforts to attract and retain great employees. Find the courage to have these difficult conversations. The success of your organization can depend on it!

Employees spend an average of 2.8 hours per week dealing with conflict, which amounts to more than $350 billion in workforce costs.

– Human Capital Report, July 2018

If you would like more information or tips related to having difficult conversations, check out our weekly podcast!

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