Sometime in every manager’s career, there comes a time when a tough talk with an employee must take place. This can be quite uncomfortable for both parties, as it can involve difficult topics and decisions. However, there are ways of handling employee meetings in a professional and productive manner that will leave them feeling inspired instead of freaked out. And they can be less painful for you as well. Here are some suggested ways to make difficult conversations with employees less distressing.

Take the meeting behind closed doors. No one wants to have to talk with an employee on the factory floor or in front of others. Respect the employee by inviting them to your office and keep the door closed to honor their privacy. If the meeting involves a member of the opposite sex, you will want to have another person present in the office with you such as the HR representative or a secretary. Let the employee know you respect them and that you want to make sure whatever is said during this time is kept 100% confidential.

Hold meetings at the right time. There is a good time to have a tough talk with an employee and there’s a very bad time. The best time depends on the nature of your conversation. As a rule of thumb, disciplinary meetings are best reserved for Monday mid-mornings. Employee terminations are typically done at the end of the employee’s shift on the last day of the week, to give them the opportunity to calm down over the weekend and leave without distracting other employees.

Prepare a list of action items before the meeting. Remember that the purpose of this meeting is to address things that the employee needs to work on or improve. Therefore, it’s important to create a general list of action items and stick to this list as you speak with the employee. Review this list with the employee by giving him or her a copy of it, so there is no room for personal interpretation or unnecessary distractions throughout the meeting. If this meeting is to terminate an employee, prepare a separation letter and checklist.

Keep the conversation focused on specific clear factors. When talking with an employee about performance issues, remember to remain focused on the actual behaviors or events that are troubling you. Employees are more likely to feel attacked if you use the term “you” a lot in your conversation, so remember to phrase things in a “when I observe this…behavior”. This places emphasis on specific things that are affecting the performance of the employee on the job, not on the employee personally.

Ask the employee for more information and feedback. A conversation is two-way, so once you have spoken, engage the employee to provide possible feedback and more information about the issues. Let the employee tell you what is at the root of the problem, and work through that together. Oftentimes, employees know what the problem is and have been in a pattern of self-sabotage for a variety of personal reasons. These can be easily overcome with some healthy dialogue.

Give praise where applicable. Being an effective manager is not solely about supervision, but rather about giving positive feedback to employees who achieve their goals. The more you praise, the more likely your employees are to succeed as they feed off this positive energy. Employees will become more productive, communicate with you more often, and a level of trust will develop as you give praise where it should be given.

Establish accountability. Once you have had a chance to speak with the employee, schedule a follow-up meeting within a week or two. That will help the employee to understand the need for accountability, and it will give you a reason to evaluate any changes that occur. Let the employee know you will be looking for specific areas of improvement during this window of opportunity. By using this method, you will eliminate the need to micro-manage people all the time, instead giving employees a chance to be responsible for their own work performance.

Need more ideas on how to conduct employee meetings and reviews?

Masiello Employment Services has the guidance and support to help make employee meetings more productive and less uncomfortable.

Now open in Northampton, MA!  Find more info about our office locations here.