top of page

Four Ways to Turn Difficult Conversations Into Performance Boosters For Your Team

An employee who often comes in late, if at all, is frequently burdened with personal “stuff” or is just not pulling their weight in the workplace… – sound familiar? Chances are you have worked with an individual who fits this description or you still have one in your business.

Unreliability is a business-killer; if you are not able to rely on every single member of your team your business effectiveness, and therefore your profitability, is at risk. This can also impact your business in the following ways:

  • Reduced morale of your high-performing team members

  • Erosion of your company culture and values

  • No one likes seeing someone getting special treatment when they are ‘not pulling their weight’

  • A common reason for top-performers leaving an organisation is their frustration with the underperformance of colleagues

  • The perception by other employees that the situation is not being dealt with appropriately

An unreliable employee can also be characterised as someone who used to be dependable but has perhaps experienced a personal crisis, or declining motivation and their performance has become erratic as a result. These employees could benefit from an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), which makes available 24/7 confidential counselling for employees.

So how do you have ‘the difficult conversation?’

  • The groundwork for this conversation should have already been laid in the relationship previously built between the employee and manager, prior to the meeting. This relationship should be built on mutual trust, honesty and respect. Your employee will be more likely to open up to you, if this trust has been built over time

  • Focus the conversation on the employee’s behaviour and the resulting negative impact on the business and the employee’s colleagues

  • Don’t use accusatory language – concentrate instead on what behaviour needs to change and why. Explore why the behaviour is occurring, do they even realise they are under-performing?

  • Unless the employee has a serious issue with a manager, they should be able to explain what the problem is – whether work or personal – and the manager should be able to make a genuine offer to support them

So what next?

  • Have a think about the employee engagement levels within your business – have you been tracking these and, if so, can the levels be improved?

  • Start to build positive relationships with your team members now, so you can have the difficult conversation if you need to – and make it less difficult

  • Plan your conversation in advance and try and anticipate their responses – this will help you do a better job Have that long-overdue conversation now – after it reflect on what you did well and how you need to improve

If you are struggling with the process or the conversation itself, get in touch – it’s what we do.


Guest Author Natasha Hawker helps SMEs from hire to fire and everything in between, helping businesses increase profitability through engaged employees.

She is the co-owner of Employee Matters whose mission is to exceed, excite and excel for clients and their team and is author of From Hire to Fire: Everything in Between.

Recent Posts
Search By Tags
No tags yet.
bottom of page