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An unpleasant conversation between a team member and yourself will go more smoothly if you put a positive spin on it. Instead of arranging the meeting with the intention of reprimanding your subordinate, you can plan the meeting to address how you can help your employee improve their performance. Your goal should be to communicate effectively without making a difficult experience more complicated.

Time and Place Matters

The meeting doesn’t necessarily have to be conducted in your office, but it should be private and discreet. This isn’t a topic that should first be discussed or gossiped about with the rest of the team. Instead, meet privately with the employee for a one-on-one discussion. If you want a more casual setting, take them out for coffee or treat them to lunch. 

Conceal Your Own Emotions

Depending on the topic to be discussed, your employee may react emotionally. Even if they don’t express feeling angry, frightened, or frustrated, they will certainly be feeling a whirlwind of emotions. You’ll make things worse if you allow your own feelings to complicate the discussion. Instead, do what you can to empathize with your employee. When you take the time to try to understand what they’re feeling, you’ll find that you can communicate more effectively with one another.

Bring a Witness

No matter how casual you want to keep the conversation, you should have an impartial witness present. This can be a co-worker or a representative from your human resources department. Bringing along a witness is particularly important if the conversation involves issues with the employee’s behavior. The witness will protect you and the employee from false accusations, which is why this can be a helpful precaution in any difficult meeting.

Don’t Script the Meeting

While you should prepare for the discussion, you should avoid a line-by-line script. You won’t be able to anticipate your employee’s responses, so it’s better to maintain a more loosely planned conversation. Keep in mind the key points you want to raise, but you should otherwise guide the conversation less rigidly. 

Don’t forget to follow up with your employee after you have each had time to contemplate the discussion. You can discuss your employee’s progress or recommend changes to correct the problem more efficiently. Following up in this way will reduce the likelihood that a second difficult meeting will be necessary.

Bio Card 2 - Cate Lemmond