No one looks forward to having tough conversations with employees. Suddenly, you are faced with the reality that as an employer, you have to deal with potentially unpleasant employee problems and workplace issues. Many owners will choose to avoid these conversations, but that will just cause additional stress in your business. Some managers even spend 25-40 percent of his or her time dealing with workplace conflicts — that’s one to two days of every work week.
Even worse, unresolved employee problems can severely impact the productivity of everyone in your business. Especially for the solo small business owner, time spent dealing with employee problems can divert you from the important day-to-day needs of your company. Allowing these issues to persist by avoiding difficult conversations will only create a toxic atmosphere. Try these 5 tips to tackle such issues without permanently damaging employee relationships.
1. Identify the specific problem
Have the facts and be prepared to state your required resolution. If you are prepared, you will be less likely to be diverted onto a tangent. Additionally, if you are prepared with facts you will be less nervous in this potentially combative situation. Don’t get emotionally side-tracked. Stay professional and calm. Be supportive, but not apologetic. You need to manage emotions effectively by respecting the employee. Don’t get sucked into a combative situation.
2. Think about the location
Try to meet in a neutral area rather than confronting the employee from behind your desk. Request the meeting at a convenient time for both you and the employee and don’t schedule it too far into the future.
3. Be positive and non-confrontational
Emphasize how a change in performance or attitude will add to the success of the business. Listen to any feedback from the employee but don’t allow for any sidetracking of the issue. Make sure that the employee understands what you expect change.
4. Monitor improvements
If the meeting is informal, then you might not want to put the issues into writing. However, quickly follow up with other employees to make sure that the situation has been resolved. If the matter stays unresolved, then you will need to meet with the employee more formally and get a written agreement for resolution. You also might want to have another person present if it is necessary to schedule another meeting.
5. Distinguish between performance issues and misconduct
There should be no level of tolerance for misconduct and that should be communicated very clearly to the employee. On the other hand, performance issues may have to be handled over a period of time in order to see improvements. Be very clear with your expectations and ask why their performance is not up to standard. Try to avoid performance issues from creating a strained atmosphere between long-term employees and new employees. Privately communicate to the more senior employees that the newer employee may need a period of time for a “learning curve”. This also allows senior employees to offer confidential reports on the new employee’s progress.
A calm and productive atmosphere is essential in a small business environment. Don’t allow employee problems and conflicts to fester and don’t allow an emotionally charged workplace to disrupt the operation of your business. Remember the importance of handling all conflict situations promptly and privately and continue developing your skill in managing difficult conversations. This will not only improve employee performance, but will also insure the long term success of your small business.
The SmallBizRising Blog is designed to be an educational content hub pulling information, best practices and practical advice for the small business owner and features topics including accounting, marketing, technology and more. Be sure to subscribe to stay up to date with new content as it is posted. The blog was created by The Neat Company and receives contributed content from a group of contributing companies that provide technology, services and solutions to small businesses.