How to Talk to an Employee whose work has been Suffering Lately

Having challenging conversations at work is never easy but failing to have them can cause major repercussions down the line. For example, if an employee is underperforming and you don’t address it, it’s like they will keep getting worse. The longer you wait, the harder the discussion becomes. Instead of avoiding the topic, here’s how to talk to an employee whose work is suffering.

Check your attitude first

The key to a successful conversation is making sure the employee still feels respected at the end. This means that while you’re addressing important issues, you aren’t attacking them or making them feel incompetent.

An easy way to slip into attack mode is if you’re angry or upset with them based on what’s happening. Their response will slip into defense and self-preservation and after, they’ll be less likely to improve based on how the situation was handled. Before you schedule the meeting, make sure your head is in a good place.

Figure out how to start the conversation

Going back to the previous point about respect, you want to make sure you lead into the conversation well. You know the points to make about their declining performance, but the conversation surrounding needs to be handled correctly.

Take some time prior to inviting them in to talk to figure out the best way to lead into what needs to be said, without making them feel disrespected or inadequate. Again, you want them to be able to answer honestly without trying to defend themselves the whole time. 

Ask them what’s going on

Your ultimate goal is developing solutions to improve his or her performance, so you want them to feel comfortable discussing the subject. Ask them questions and spend time listening to their responses. Here you can learn more about what’s happening that’s causing the issues and how they believe it can be resolved.  

Focus on the performance, not the person 

Throughout the entire conversation, regardless of what approach you take, keep your focus around what’s going on with their performance and not them directly. Instead of using statements around what they need to do, explain their problems in terms of the actual projects and assignments and allow them to consider solutions.

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