In business there is one main subject that seems difficult for many to handle but to be a top performing manager and leader you must master it. Talking to the under performer. Under performance comes in many different packages. Body Odor, tardiness, excuses, inappropriate comments and tasks not completed are all “behavior” that is sub par and below expectations.
See what I did there in that last paragraph? I took it out of “personal” (about the person) and transformed it into just a behavior. This is the first step in having a meaningful difficult conversation. Figure out what behavior isn’t working.
PLAN before you have the meeting.
1. Get Neutral. You can be angry, disappointed and frustrated but during the meeting (discussion) you need to remain calm and have a neutral tone of voice.
2. Write it Down. Bullet point what the grievances are and follow your list. Do not go off into personality issues and all of your frustrations. Stick to your list.
3. Avoid getting personal. This is about the behavior, not about the person.
Example Scenario: Sally, thank you for coming in. This will only take about 5 minutes. While I know this might be uncomfortable for you to hear, I need to let you know that I have experienced times lately where you have body odor. I know this can happen for a number of reasons and I’m hoping you will manage this better in the future. (Your tone is completely neutral, speed is slow and steadily paced, you are making eye contact as much as Sally will allow. Breathe) Do you have any questions? Wait for response. Is there anything you might need help with or information about? Wait for response. Thank you for coming in and I want you to know this conversation is completely confidential on my end and I am happy to discuss or answer questions on this or any topic you might need help on in the future. Don’t hesitate to talk to me about any concerns. You stand to signal the end of the meeting and walk them OUT OF THE OFFICE. When you are out in the public area just outside your office door. Take Sally’s hand and shake it. (if appropriate) Thank her so much for coming in and smile. This signals to any around (and in some ways to Sally) that this was not a big deal, not a scolding, just an informational NEUTRAL meeting about data that needed to be handled.
YOU ARE DONE! You did it!
Remember keep your tone and the information neutral, keep it about the behavior, not the person, and make it short and to the point.