Client Relations Manager Julie; she is having a rough day. A year ago she inherited a motivated staff that had a reputation for delivery quality service. But her fifth employee has just resigned, sales are down and client retention is sliding. The president of the company is not pleased. Julie is beginning to realize that ‘sticks and stones… and words CAN hurt’. They can damage your company’s culture and reputation, which hinders good hiring. They can demotivate your employees, which ultimately cuts into profits.
Her missteps were common, but over time, caused damage. Julie wasn’t given a ‘how to say it’ manual that addresses the employee management challenges she would face. At one time she believed that because she was ‘the boss’, she could say what she wanted to get the job done, without giving much thought to the consequences. Negative interactions with employees will take a toll.
First time and long time supervisors have difficulty finding the right way to deliver information. The biggest mistake? Texting and email! The downside of technology is allowing poor communicators to hide. Why a supervisor would email an employee about an performance deficiency when they are sitting in the cubicle beside them is baffling! And texting a nasty message to an employee after hours is worse.
If you want to a good leader, you have to have difficult conversations, period. These conversations should be verbal whenever possible and should take place on the business day of or the business day closest to the infraction, challenge or problem.
If you or your supervisors are like Julie, and are at a loss on what to say during a first time or difficult conversation, here are some suggestions on how to address the most common situations.
Interviewing – Watch out for landmines!
Replace “What daycare do you use?” with “Are you able to begin work at X AM?”.
Replace “Do you have any disabilities?” with “Are you able to perform the essential duties of this job?”.
Replace “When did you graduate from high school?” with “Are you over the age of 18?”.
New Hires – Demotivating them will waste all your recruiting efforts.
Replace “Do not, do not , do not” with “This is a great place to work; here’s why”.
Replace “I know you may be overwhelmed, but….” with “This is a lot of information to take on at once, so here is a schedule to follow and reference material”.
Replace “A 90 day review will be scheduled later on…” with “90 day reviews are important; yours has already been scheduled for X day at Y time”.
Performance Management – Try not to turn an above average employee into disgruntled and unproductive.
Replace “I’m tired of you being late” with “Has ability to report to work on time changed?”
Replace “I’m not paying for that overtime” with “I appreciate you working late. Please remember that our policy requires pre-approval”.
Replace “It’s just a joke, get over it” with “This is concerning and I am happy to assist you. Let’s review company policy and decide on how to best proceed”.
Replace “This is not up for discussion!” with “Our company has an open door policy. Please review those guidelines and schedule a time with me to discuss your suggestions.”
No one is perfect and no one has all the answers. The best leaders in the world can trip themselves up from time to time. But reasonable judgment, strong company values and thinking before you speak should help. Don’t let constant negativity damage culture, productivity or profits. Before you say it, put yourselves in the other person shoes first.
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