Part two – “Steady As We Go” or Having THE Conversation…

A ship coming through the storm to the sunIn the previous installment of “As The Office Turns”, it was clear that there was a conversation that needed to be had. So in part two, how do you have the conversation? What do you need to do to prepare?

First, think of the goal.  The purpose of the meeting is to ultimately have the employee change the behavior that is problematic within the organization. That is it…nothing less.

Can we agree? Great.

Second, set the stage. This may be a tough conversation. So how can you provide the best environment for the employee to truly hear what you are trying to say? I find it helpful to think through the following questions:

1. How have they responded to past feedback? How will that shape your conversation?

2. Where will you have the conversation? The more neutral, the better – think conference room, not the manager’s office.

3. When will you have the meeting? Mid day? Early part of the week? Sometimes you don’t have the flexibility in this area, but when you do, I always suggest any day but a Friday (tough news before a weekend can fester into something more than it needs to be) and later in the day (give the person the opportunity to go home if needed with full pay for the day).

Third, write down notes and practice what you are going to say. When you are sure of what you are going to say, it is more natural, sincere and honest it is, aside from the fact that you will be less nervous. Practice with someone in your HR department, practice with your dog, practice in the mirror…whatever works for you.

Your goal is to guide the conversation. Through your choice of words, your tone of voice and your reactions to the employee, you can frame and steer the conversation to where you need it to go. By practicing what you are going to say, it will not only help with your discomfort, but will allow the true goal of the conversation to take hold.

Fourth, go for it. The truth is, this will very rarely be easy and prolonging the initiation of the conversation is only more agonizing. So…

*Be clear and direct – “_____ you have been late to work six times in the past 10 days causing others to pick up the balance of your work.”

*Explain how a behavior change will/can be positive – “You and I have spoken in the past about your desire for promotion and I want to be able to hand you assignment that can set you up for that in the future. By being on time, you will reinforce to me your commitment to your job and our organization”.

*Expect the person to have a reaction that may be anger or discomfort and recognize it – “____ I see that this conversation is frustrating/angering/causing you distress. Do you need a moment?”

*Reinforce the goal of changing the behavior for a more acceptable one and have them be a part of that solution– “______, I have some suggestions on how we can have you come to work on time, but I would like to hear from you. How do you think we can solve this problem? What are your suggestions?

Finally, close the conversation. You want to be accessible to future talks while still allowing you to maintain control of the dialogue. “_______, I want to thank you for talking with me about this issue and I am counting on you to be at work on time from now on. Please let me know how we can work together to make to make you successful.”

Ok, you are done….or are you? In the last part of this mini-drama, I will discuss how you can follow up the conversation and reinforce the positive behaviors you want to see.

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2 Responses to “Part two – “Steady As We Go” or Having THE Conversation…”

  1. Heather Rogers Says:

    I love this “As the Office Turns!” Very well written and useful (even from the employee side I think!!) Maybe in the future for this blog I could throw you some hypothetical employee dilemmas and you could suggest how to handle?? Maybe written in a way that serves your clients and potential clients as opposed to employees directly?? You are awesome — with endless admiration … Heather

  2. Rosalind Baruch Says:

    I am happy to help! Feel free to send any questions or hypotheticals to me at


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This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 15th, 2011 at 8:21 pm and is filed under addressing employee performance issues, Employee Relations. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.