Stop bad behaviour before it spreads

ONE of the least comfortable tasks a manager has to perform is to speak to an employee who is being disruptive, producing poor quality work or violating agreed standards of behaviour. It’s a situation few managers enjoy and, thus, many shirk it. But bear in mind that it is also highly uncomfortable for the wayward employee. In fact, you can use this discomfort to your advantage. Simply put, people act to experience pleasant circumstances and act to avoid unpleasant circumstances. You need to make it very clear that both of you have to make certain choices and that each of those choices has consequences – pleasant and unpleasant. Make it clear that one consequence for the employee is that, while they continue to misbehave, you will continue to counsel them about it. As soon as they improve their behaviour, you will stop counselling them. It’s their choice. Inaction on your part will show you in a poor light in the eyes of other staff. You will be seen as weak and ineffectual and your credibility will suffer. The longer you let it go, the worse it will be. Make it easier on yourself by preparing yourself before you actually discuss the problem with the employee – it will really help your confidence. Answer these questions about the problem situation. With whom does it occur? When? While talking about what topic or while doing what job? Where does the situation occur or where will it recur? What specifically does the employee do or say or fail to do or say? What specifically do you do or say or fail to do or say? What are the consequences if the problem is not resolved? Consider: for you; for the employee; for the team; and for the customers – both internal and external. What outcomes do you desire to resolve this situation? Consider: your needs; their needs; the team’s needs; and the customers’ needs – both internal and external customers. What are the possible and probable consequences of speaking up for both of you? It will help you to actually write down what you will say to this person. Complete these statements: When you...; When I...; When...; I would prefer...; I want...; I need...; I would like...; If you do...; If you do not...; If you will...; Then I will...; Invite the person to meet with you in private and tell them that there is a work issue that you need to discuss. Tell them it is something that you need to resolve, but that you can’t resolve it without their co-operation. Suggest to them that you will go first and ask them not to interrupt until you have finished. Tell them that they will have their turn and that you will listen to them. When you have both had your say, begin the process of negotiating an outcome acceptable to both of you. You need to discuss some of the consequences, needs and outcomes previously identified.

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