When it comes to managing employees, sometimes you have to address their behavior and enable corrective action. This entails tough conversations between managers and employees. This doesn’t necessarily lead to firing, but rather helping an employee learn from their mistakes so they don’t make the same ones again in the future.

In having difficult conversations with employees, you want to approach it with as much compassion and truth as possible. Remember, this is just as uncomfortable for the employee as it is for you as a manager. You want to make sure that your employees don’t see you as the enemy, but rather as a teacher who values their work and wants them to do better.

We’ve compiled five tips that managers can utilize when having tough conversations with employees.

Be compassionate and caring

Managers and employees have a relationship that’s not only professional but personal. When a manager needs to approach an employee, they need to do so with compassion. Managers were once in their employees’ shoes, so it’s crucial for managers to approach the situation the way they would like to be talked to. They should communicate with GRIT (generosity, respect, integrity, and truth). Keep the conversation positive, which includes body language. Employees will sense anger and discomfort if they get that vibe from their managers.

Employees want to feel like their managers care about them, so it’s crucial that managers show they care during these meetings. Showing you care makes an impact on an employee’s performance, so if you don’t have that, it can affect workplace morale. You’d be surprised that it can have for an employee, not only during these conversations but in their everyday work and attitude.

Stick to the facts

When you’re having a difficult conversation with your employees, it’s crucial to stick to the facts and be objective. Instead of having an emotion-fueled conversation, have one that’s purely based on facts. Focus on their actions, not on your reaction to those actions. This will allow you to speak unbiased towards your employee.

In order to do this, you first need to decide what your desired outcome of the meeting will be. Once you have that, write down everything that happened with the employee to keep it factual, leaving emotion out of the equation. Lastly, identify and take responsibility for your part in the situation. With this approach, you will avoid repeating an unwanted pattern by doing so in a way that respects the employee.

Step into their shoes

Part of a difficult conversation is putting yourself in your employee’s shoes to see where they are coming from. You may not know what prompted them to say what they said or did what they did. Considering your employees’ viewpoints will help you create a win-win situation for everyone and deliver the message in a calm manner. When talking to your employees, use “I” statements, avoiding putdowns, judgment, and blame. This technique will help you stick to the facts and keep your composure.

That being said, you need to be open minded. Before reaching out to the person who needs to be confronted, make sure you are not the one in the wrong. If you go into a conversation expecting an issue, that’s what you’re going to get. Have good intentions in your confrontation, but also make sure you see it from the other person’s perspective too.

Don’t take it personally

This tip is the hardest for those of us who are born people pleasers who don’t want to upset anyone. If you approach the conversation with this mentality, you will get nowhere. Instead, focus on finding the truth in the matter by sticking to the facts and having the conversation from that perspective. How the other person responds is up to them.

Along with this, don’t sugar-coat the truth when having the conversation with your employees. Your employees expect you to be transparent and honest with you, no matter how brutal. Though it may be hard to divulge the truth because you’re afraid of the worst-case scenario, your employees will thank you for it. Think of the truth as a learning tool for your employees; they won’t improve unless you are honest with them about what they need to improve on.

Come to an agreement/resolution

At the end of your conversation with your employee, make sure both parties come to an agreement and resolve the issue at hand. Make sure to schedule any follow-up meetings if necessary or put action items in place to circle back on. You want to leave the conversation with all the loose ends tied up so both parties feel good when they leave the room.

You don’t leave anything untouched. If you can tell there is something bothering your employee, ask for more details, or ask them if there is anything they want to bring up while you’re already talking. This way, you cover all of your bases and make your employees feel heard and that you truly value the issues they bring to the table.

Having tough conversations is never easy, especially with employees. However, it’s necessary to foster a healthy work environment for both managers and their employees. By following the tips above, you’re sure to walk into your next conversation with an employee feeling more comfortable confronting them.

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