4 Tweaks to Fine Tune Your Response to Employee Issues

employee issue

 

It takes so much energy to address an employee issue. If you’re doing it at all, you are on your way to creating clearer expectations and a better working environment for everyone. You can fine tune your repertoire with these tweaks:

Be Timely.

When finding the right time to broach an employee issue, you may fall into one of two extremes: taking immediate action when your emotions (usually anger) are high or ignoring or avoiding the issue in hopes that it goes away on its own. Neither is usually preferable.

Instead, use the 24-7 guideline. If you tend to get angry or really frustrated, take 24 hours to calm down before you meet with the employee. Alternatively, if you’re an “avoider”, give yourself up to 7 calendar days to address the issue. If you don’t, then fine. Let it go. But you don’t get to bring up the situation again in the future because you chose not to address it timely the first go-round.

Assume Good Intentions.

People screw up, but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t intend something good underneath. By assuming and looking for the positive the employee was trying to accomplish, you keep yourself on the employee’s “side” and will avoid making them defensive.

Reinforce Their Autonomy and Accountability.

During your conversation, ask them to state what they are committed to doing differently going forward – whether that’s following the relevant policy or procedure, interacting with co-workers in a different way, or correcting a bad work habit. It’s just more powerful when the employee says what they will do differently next time, instead of you telling them what to do.

Underscore Your Expectations.

The point of addressing employee issues is to set or re-set an expectation, so they do better in the future. In addition to stating your expectations during a timely conversation with the employee, send a follow-up email that summarizes the basics of the conversation, including how you expect them to act going forward and any new commitments they made. This has the added benefit of creating something written and dated for future reference if needed.

To foster the kind of talent and mutual respect that makes a top team takes continual growth as a leader. Hone your leadership skills the next time you need to address an employee issue by trying just one of these tweaks.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with corporate leaders who want to enhance their leadership abilities to drive bottom-line results. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting LLC at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

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Coordinating Action Through Communication

“We live in historical conversations . . .

and live our assumptions as though they were true.”

– Julio Garreaud, Human Architect

I haven’t known a company yet where employees didn’t complain about a lack of communication. It isn’t that there is silence going on. To the contrary. People talk to each other all the time at work. The words are floating out there, but we don’t truly connect to each other’s meaning.

So many words are wasted at work because you assume that everyone else shares your assumptions about what you said. Really communicating – at work or at home – involves aligning your own expectations and assumptions with the assumptions of others. Based on our assumptions, you have three types or levels of conversations:

Transactional – These tell/ask conversations are the most superficial of all conversations. They are an exchange of simply factual information. You share what you know and seek to bring your facts into alignment with facts that others have.  For example, “I have a dentist appointment today at 2:00 and will leave the office early.”

Positional – This type of conversation is about advocating/inquiring and happens when you inform others of where you stand on an issue and seek to persuade them to seeing things your way. Problems occur when we cling to our own perspective, needing to be right, instead of showing a willingness to adjust our information based on what we hear from others.

Co-Creative – In these conversations, you and others explore a topic through sharing/discovering and remain connected to each other as you move through the topic together. The point of these conversations is to be open to information you don’t know and to be open to the fact that you don’t know what you don’t know.

Coordinating Action Through Communication

Within these conversations, you make statements and ask questions using the following linguistic distinctions:

Assessment – an opinion based on your perspective, beliefs, and assumptions.
Assertion – a statement based on your expertise in a certain subject matter
Request – a stated desire that includes what you want, by when (date/time)
Promise – a YES/NO/MAYBE response to a request, indicating whether or not you will fulfill the request as stated, renegotiate the terms of the request, or revoke an earlier promise due to changing circumstances
Declaration – a statement based on authority/power
Offer – an unsolicited promise made without getting a specific request in advance.

Of all the linguistic distinctions, requests and promises are critical for coordinating action because they drive results. The trick is to ensure you make your request explicit enough so that someone else knows what you want and how they can successfully give it to you.

In meetings, for example, the key is to share enough information about a situation, so the people involved can make specific requests about what they need, and others can make informed promises to fill those needs. When you request “an executive summary on the ABC issues by Thursday at 3:00 p.m.”, others know whether or not they are capable of promising to do so.

When you are skilled at knowing which type of conversation to have to serve your purpose along with the specific linguistic distinctions you can use to craft your conversations, your company or work group can become a symphony of communication that results in harmonious action.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman challenges leaders to lead like nobody’s business by knowing themselves, bringing alignment to their businesses, and communicating clearly and powerfully. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting LLC at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

Why Confrontation is the Secret Ingredient of Success

You dream of working easily and seamlessly with colleagues with little or no contention.  Who really wants to work in a contentious environment? Surprisingly, little or no disagreement/conflict is a sign that your group is not as good as you think.  When there is little if any open disagreement about matters of importance (mission, values, projects, and goals), your nice and easy culture is in trouble of complacency and of becoming irrelevant.  The group becomes vulnerable to “group think” without the ability to thoroughly vet ideas and does not adapt quickly and strategically to changing conditions nor does it evolve rapidly enough to face handled new challenges. And you know without little outward disagreement your colleagues are expressing disagreement and discontent out of the light of day among themselves.

“Easy” working relationships and interactions tend to be superficial, Stepford-type communications that present a good face while hiding what you and your colleagues really think and feel. When you don’t express your real thoughts and concerns, interactions in the workplace are coated with the waxy build-up of unvoiced concerns, resentments, passive-aggressive behavior, disengaged employees, gossip, and scapegoating others.  This sets you up for poor decisions based on untested beliefs and untried assumptions, which in turn increases stress, smothers innovation, derails growth, and allows incompetence to go unaddressed.

The result is a toxic culture with low trust even though you and your colleagues are outwardly nice to each other while putting down each other behind your backs.

The secret to turning this around? Confrontation.

Whoa!  You have been raised to be non-confrontational.  How can confrontation be good?  Confrontation can be done in a respectful way where the emphasis is on really digging into the content of what others are proposing rather than attacking others personally.

Confrontation doesn’t need to be loud and forceful. It isn’t about making someone else wrong while you are right nor is it about winning.  Instead, confrontation done right is about using the data that is known to question a process, a decision, an opinion, performance or behavior. Confrontation done right highlights other possible perspectives or interpretations without demeaning others. By confronting the completeness and interpretation of existing data, you stand a greater chance of having deeper, more meaningful discussions while de-personalizing the issue at hand.

Disagreement is natural when interacting with others because we don’t all think, believe, or act the same.  Sadly, whether you’re trying to be PC or whether boat-rocking in general makes you queasy, the idea of confrontation gets a bad rap, mostly because you have seen it done badly for so long.  The typical scene that pops into your head when hearing the word “confrontation” probably involves someone losing her cool by yelling, pounding a fist on a table, and/or even throwing something. That’s not the type of confrontation that is productive.

Handled appropriately, confrontation done right allows a department, work group, business unit, or team to vet differing opinions, ideas, and assumptions, which leads to greater clarity before a course of action is chosen.  The result?  A collegial climate in which you feel you can be transparent and vulnerable because the focus is on the good of the group rather than on protecting your ego by looking like a hero. Healthy confrontation creates an atmosphere where people are willing to forego the short-term relief of staying in a familiar rut in favor of long-term, meaningful impacts that will enable your company to adapt and thrive.

And that is why confrontation is the secret to your success.

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman is the advisor for senior leaders who get an edge on the competition by staying sharp and adaptable to increase productivity and profitability. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting LLC at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

Does Your Back Ache From Bending Over Backwards for Your Employees?

Being the boss is tough.  With all the information available on how to motivate and engage employees, without being a micro-manager or a bully, it can be a bit confusing trying to determine what exactly an effective boss is like today.  A big part of becoming a good boss is understanding and creating healthy boundaries.

What is a boundary?  A boundary is an imaginary line that exists between you and your employees.  It marks the difference between your organizational role, authority, responsibility and status, etc. and theirs. And by virtue of this, it defines acceptable behaviors in a given situation, and it gives you permission to tell others what to do and what to expect of them as they do it.

How do you know if you have unhealthy boundaries with employees?   If your boundaries at work are non-existent or too loose, you’re probably the type who is very concerned about whether your employees like you.  That is, your primary desire, motivation, and basis for your decision-making centers on making your employees like you.  And because you want them to like you, you believe if you take care of them and even protect them, they will like you more and work that much harder.  After all, it’s all about relationships, right?

Yes, it is about relationships – healthy ones – with good boundaries.  Boundaries that recognize and communicate that you are not your employees’ equal at work and that it’s your job to tell them what to do and to provide them information about why they need to do it and how well they did it.  If you are overly concerned with being liked, you’re focusing on you and not on the company’s goals and interests (which is the job of management).  (This is called co-dependence or “letting the tail wag the dog”.)  In short, you are not fulfilling your role as boss and are bending over backwards too far.

If you find yourself walking on eggshells around employees in the pursuit of their happiness and at the expense of the company’s interests . . . . If you balk at requiring/asking your employees to do the not so fun parts of their jobs . . . . If you are avoiding a conversation about performance or conduct issues because you’re afraid you might upset an employee. . . . here are 4 things you can do to create healthier boss/employee boundaries:

First, consciously step into your role as boss with no apologies.  This means, you are the “decider”.   It’s your job to set expectations and sometimes to have difficult conversations: that’s what you’re paid to do.  You don’t need to be a jerk about it.  Just be as clear as possible.   Your employees already expect this by virtue of your role as the boss.  The authority and permission to tell others what to do is built into the boss/employee relationship.  (Repeat:  you don’t need to be a jerk about it.)  They’re waiting for it because even they know when they are pushing boundaries.  They are probably surprised you haven’t already addressed certain issues with them.

Second, strive to be respected instead of liked.  You might be able to do both, but garnering respect first and foremost forms the basis of a healthy boss/employee relationship.  To gain respect, you must be firm, fair, and consistent, so your employees know what to expect of you on a regular basis.  And yes, your employees won’t like everything you hold them accountable to, but they’ll understand it and expect it.

Third, don’t actively seek to be friends with your employees.  They might be great people, but to maintain a healthy boss/employee boundary, you shouldn’t see each other tipsy at happy hour or know minute details of your current or past relationships.  Concentrate on the work with occasional superficial chit chat.

Fourth, get better at handling conflict and hard conversations. Being the boss means you will deal with situations where most people don’t want to change the way they do things.  Conflict abounds.  When you shy away from conflict, you’re trading the possibility of something new and full of potential, for staying stuck in the present situation that you may think is safe but which reflects your inability to adapt and your lack of faith in others to do the same.

To better cope with the discomfort of being the boss, find peers – other managers, business owners, CEOs – to commiserate and celebrate with.  It can be lonely being in charge, and these peers can relate to the trials and tribulations of being a boss and offer advice and support.

Your employees were hired to accomplish work in your company.  They don’t mind doing the job – they applied for it.  And healthy, defined boundaries will create clarity, making your work together easier and more productive.

Do You Have What It Takes to Lead Others?

what it takes to leadIt happens every day. Someone is put in the position of managing people for the first time and finds it is daunting and very different from what they expected. If this happened to you, you might have been completely unprepared for what it takes to lead other people. Just being the one in charge coupled with their own sparkling personality was supposed to make you a “hit” with your team, wasn’t it?

Au contraire, mon frere.

What does it take to lead employees in the workplace successfully? In addition to skills you can learn (how to interview, how to address behavior and performance issues, how to communicate better, etc.), it takes a couple of other qualities that usually come with maturity and are not always easily acquired:

1. Self-Awareness.

To maintain your composure under stressful situations at work (and at home), you must be aware of your underlying assumptions about people and work, your motivations, your own hot buttons, your talents, and your limitations. A tall order, I know, but without this basic awareness, you are prone to react (and over-react) to situations at work without producing the results you desire. In fact, without self-awareness, you’ll probably make the same mistakes over and over, producing exactly the opposite of what you desire. Becoming a manager is a great experience for learning these things about yourself. If you aren’t already self-aware, leading others will help you increase your self-awareness, but you have to be willing to recognize and own your “stuff”.

2. Balanced Ego.

You also must be self-aware enough to realize that even though you would like to believe you “deserved” the promotion to manager, the workplace is not always about merit. Maybe there are others who would be as good or an even better manager, but you were in the right place at the right time to be selected. Realize this, have some humility about it, and keep focusing on your own growth as a person to enhance your growth as a supervisor of people.

3. Appropriate and Flexible Boundaries.

Having flexible boundaries means you decide what to let into “your space” and what to keep out. Good but flexible boundaries make you resistant to influences that will get in the way of your ability to function as a healthy manager. As you understand your role as manager, you should come to understand that your role is to get the best out of those who work with you while enforcing all the rules of the organization. (Sometimes that means you will not be the most popular person around. You have to be OK with that.) As you create professional boundaries with your employees, you are establishing the ground rules for how you will behave and others are to behave around you. Having flexible boundaries means . . .

  • You build trust with your employees as you maintain confidences; are firm, fair, and consistent in your dealings with others; and admit when you make a mistake.
  • You understand that you and your employees have roles to play and that the decisions made and the actions taken at work are not designed to personally favor you or another individual.
  • You do not make decisions out of pity for others or just so your employees will like you.
  • You hold yourself and your employees accountable for expected performance and behavior in the workplace based on the business objectives for your work group.
4. Compassion.

Compassion is the ability to understand what someone else might be experiencing. It’s the ability to put yourself in their shoes. Compassion allows you to meet others where they are and assist them as they move to where they need to be based on what the work requires. In general, I think the more self-awareness one has, the more their compassion for others increases.

Becoming a manager/leader will be challenging and rewarding. Instead of validating your talent and wonderfulness, it is a wake-up call and a growth opportunity for most. Enjoy!

Copyright – Beth Strathman 2011-2018
All rights reserved

Don’t Believe Everything You Think

beliefsThroughout my career, I have learned that much of what is thought, is only in your own head and is not necessarily true.  Yep.  Humans make up a lot of stuff about the world. But creating clarity of thought comes only if you decrease the amount of our own interference with the information you take in.

The brain has been described as a pattern-making machine.  It looks for patterns everywhere (even where there aren’t any).  You have many THOUGHTS that come together in patterns, which eventually form BELIEFS about everything.  And although you like to think of yourself as a rational, logical being, you typically don’t investigate the objective TRUTH of those THOUGHTS and BELIEFS. In fact, most of our beliefs were formed before you were 7 years old.

Based on the way the brain is designed, the more you practice a belief, the more you see it in the world around you.  And if you don’t examine what is going through your mind, you can end up making decisions about or reacting to situations and people in ways that can look wacky to others and that don’t serve you in the long run.

In other words, you have filters in place that color what you see, hear, and experience. The more you use these “filters”, the stronger the neural connections become around a belief. In turn, these “filters” shape how we interpret our experiences.

To get clearer about your interpretation of things around you, become aware of a few of the negative thoughts or beliefs you hold about a situation or another individual at work.  Something for which you don’t have much of a factual basis.  Own up to the fact that the stories you tell yourself are often merely your interpretation of what happened and may not fully describe the entire situation.

Explore processes like The Work by Byron Katie  to help you question beliefs that especially cause you to react negatively with frustration, sadness, or anger.

As a leader, question a negative belief you have about someone at work.  Is it true?

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with leaders as they evolve into the leader they are meant to become and learn to maximize the people side of business. Learn more about her at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

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3 Reasons Why Being a “Nice” Manager is “Mean”

Have you been “putting up with” a certain employee’s bad conduct or poor performance for a while now in an effort to avoid conflict and be “nice”?

It never ceases to amaze me how often managers avoid addressing issues with employees, as though bring up an employee’s poor conduct or performance would be “mean”.  Guess what? That’s a manager’s job. when you are avoiding an issue with an employee, it tells me (1) you have limiting beliefs that are holding you back, and/or (2) you don’t know how to set expectations or correct an employee in a professional and respectful way.

In reality, avoiding conflict in order to be “nice” or likable is actually “mean”. It creates an enabling, co-dependent relationship that isn’t good for anyone.

You are being “mean” when you don’t address employee issues because you are:

  1. Preventing the employees’s acquisition of new competencies, instead of providing feedback that will help them grow
  2. Reducing the employee’s sense of self-efficacy and control over their work, instead of empowering them, and
  3. Reinforcing old or maladaptive behaviors, instead of encouraging new coping strategies or behaviors.

When you address issues timely and appropriately through healthy conflict and confrontation,  your company, department, work group, business unit, or team will operate much more cohesively. They will become more aware of their strengths and weaknesses and more likely exhibit the behaviors required to work together effectively. However, when you don’t approach conflict in the context of your responsibilities, your workplace becomes coated with the waxy buildup of poor performance and conduct that fuels unvoiced concerns, resentments, passive aggressive behavior, disengaged employees, and gossip.

Reflect on how well you are addressing issues rather than avoiding them. Are you really being “nice” or “mean”?

Want support for planning out tough conversations, so they are more likely to stay on topic and on track? Get my Conversation Planner today.

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with leaders as they evolve into the leader they are meant to become and learn to maximize the people side of business. Learn more about her at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

Follow Beth:
YouTube: Firebrand Consulting LLC
LinkedIn: /company/firebrand-consulting-llc  or /in/bethstrathman
Facebook: /firebrandleadershipconsulting