Skip to main content

Have you recently had to correct someone on how they need to do their job, or bring inappropriate actions to their attention? Every day, managers face issues ranging from performance problems and disciplinary challenges to allegations of discrimination or harassment. Some issues may be more serious than others, but the one thing they all have in common is a need for effective communication with everyone involved. The conversation can be tough, but knowing how to communicate effectively can create a positive situation out of a potentially negative one. It can save your company from high turnover, lead to higher productivity, create increased company morale and, most importantly, even save your company from a lawsuit.

Here are a few tips that could help management when they find themselves in a difficult situation:

  1. Don’t ignore the issue. One challenge that faces managers is knowing when to address insignificant infractions or minor employee tiffs. Often times, the manager will address larger issues such as discrimination or harassment allegations yet never address rudeness, tardiness, or other behavioral issues. Never addressing less significant issues causes them to fester and remain unresolved, causing discord among other employees until they react in an attempt to solve the situation themselves.
  2. Don’t dance around the issue. Often times managers, instead of dealing with an individual problem, think they can resolve it by placing a new policy or procedure that applies to the whole team. Policies are important to have in place to communicate expectations and ensure a safe, nondiscriminatory workplace. But, policies should be made for the entire team not for a few rule breakers. Remove the problem individuals to a private space and discuss the behavioral issue, asking for a mutual resolution.
  3. Hearing, but not active listening. It can be hard to give someone your undivided attention, especially these days, but people need to feel that they are being acknowledged and understood during conversations. If you’re a manager who takes calls, texts, or answers emails during meetings or in the middle of conversations, then you are not effectively communicating with your employees. Pay attention to their words, tone and body language. You’ll often receive clues that will help you identify the underlying issue causing the unacceptable behavior.
  4. Don’t fly by the seat of your pants. Many employee issues do not require an immediate response, but that doesn’t stop some managers from reacting reflexively and sometimes inappropriately. Managers can be quick to jump to conclusions, rush to judgment, or yell at employees in frustration. Before jumping into a conversation, or snapping to a resolution with an employee, make sure to take the time to fully evaluate and analyze the scenario, and then plan an approach.
  5. Failing to document. Not all employee conversations require disciplinary action, but they should still be documented. If the manager feels like the incident deserves any discussion with an employee, it should be documented. When it’s documented and the behavior re-occurs, there are talking points to refer to, and documentation on what was discussed, so nothing is blown out of proportion. The documentation can also be used as backup in case disciplinary action is needed, or a simple memory refresher from the previous discussion. Always document your conversations.

As you’ve read, effective communication skills are fundamental to appropriately handling difficult conversations with employees. Managers should always address employee relations issues directly with compassion and respect, rather than avoiding the issue or avoiding direct confrontation. DecisionHR believes effective communication is key to a successful business. If you ever have any questions on how to approach a difficult situation, contact your HR Business Partner.  We’re here to help.