Discussing Problems With Employees


If the only time you speak to employees is when there is a problem, then you might find that you generate a negative relationship with them.

Like the late, great comedian Frank Carson once said, ‘It’s the way you tell ‘em!’

As a manager our job is to get the best out of people and make sure that everything is working effectively.

So, here are some tips for you to discuss problems with employees in a way that will help not only to solve the problems but motivate them at the same time.

Recognise The Good Stuff

It is too easy to focus on the things that need fixing.  What we need to do is to show the people who work for us that we value all the good stuff that they do BEFORE bringing up the ‘problem’.  This not only helps to preserve self-confidence, it provides a good platform for finding a workable solution.

Ask Them What They Know About The Problem

Always remember that we look at things from different perspectives, our own and probably the customer’s too.  Both of these may still be inaccurate.  By asking our employee how they view it, not only do we have a better chance of building a more complete picture, we also show that we value the employee’s point of view.

Agree Upon The Facts

Now that you have considered the different perspectives you can agree upon the ‘facts’.  You can say something along the lines of, ‘So, just to confirm my understanding of what happened …….’  Once this is agreed you can then move onto the next stage.

Express Any Concerns That You Have

Having come to some sort of agreement, you may still have to show that you were unhappy with the person’s behaviour in this situation.  When doing so always be objective and talk about the facts.  For example you say express it in this way.  ‘Now that we have agreed what happened this morning, my concern is that you raised your voice to the customer’.  You have not said that they were rude or something similar; you have only described the behaviour. Separating behaviour from the person themselves is important.

Discuss Possible Solutions Together

Even if you think you have a solution that you think will work, give your team member the chance to think and learn for themselves.It also helps them to step back from the problem in an objective way and develops their problem solving skills.

Evaluate The Various Solutions

Encourage your employee to consider each solution carefully to fully understand the impact of each alternative.  If they don’t understand the bigger picture, you may to prompt them by using a leading question which helps to give them a clue without actually telling them. For example you could say, ‘What would be the impact on the accounts team if we agree these special terms just for this customer?’

Choose The Best Option Together

Having considered the various alternatives, choose the most effective option and agree the best way forward.

Discussing Problems In The Future

Now that you have used this method with your employee you have created a structure for future discussions.  You can also save time by asking your colleague to carry out some of these stages before you meet to discuss it.  Let them reflect for themselves what happened, consider and evaluate solutions before coming to you with their recommendation.  This way they have taken more responsibility and at the same time developed their skills.

Some managers will say that this takes too long.  Investing the time now will save you much more time in the future.  You will also have more motivated and capable people enabling you to delegate future challenges knowing they can handle it.

Before I sign off here are a few articles that might be of interest to you:

Many thanks

Mark Williams

Head of Training

MTD Training   | Image courtesy by Ambro of FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

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