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8 Steps to Preparing for a Problem Performance Conversation

Here’s an outline a manager/supervisor can use to prepare for a performance conversation with an employee.

    1. Let the employee know your concern. Cut out the small talk and get straight to the topic of performance improvement. This conversation is important and should be treated as such.
    2. Share observable behavior. Offer specifics about actual behaviors that have been witnessed. If someone else saw the behaviors, try to have that person there. Employees will not respond well to statements such as, “Someone told me you did this ….”Note: Because the goal is to change behavior, it’s important to specifically address behavior.
    3. Explain how the problem affects the team. Employees might not realize how their behavior negatively affects others. Managers should be prepared to draw a connection between the employee’s performance and the agency’s success. If negative impact can’t be explained, then an employee will question the need to change.
    4. Tell them the expected behavior. Even if it has been explained before, managers should clarify what the agency’s acceptable performance standard is and how employees can achieve the standard.
    5. Solicit solutions from the employee. This is so important! Let the employee outline the action steps he or she plans to take in order to correct the situation. If a manager has to tell an employee what to do, the employee hasn’t bought into the solution.
    6. Convey the consequences. Communicate to the employee what will happen if the situation is not resolved. Consequences can vary greatly, from a transfer request being denied to disciplinary action.
    7. Agree upon a follow-up date. “No news is good news” is not a management philosophy. After the employee agrees to work toward improving performance, set a follow-up date to discuss progress.
    8. Express confidence. Managers should affirm their belief that the employee has the ability to correct the situation.

Negative performance conversations are never fun—for the person giving them or the person receiving the feedback. Think of the different responses that could arise and how to best answer. Preparation will make the conversation easier.

Gleaned from information by Sharlyn Lauby, president of ITM Group Inc. and author of the “HR Bartender Blog”