Let’s discuss avoiding courageous conversations with a staff member. These are the conversations where you must address difficult topics related to poor performance, business etiquette, or delivering poor feedback from a client. Nearly all the leaders I coach don’t like these conversations and will avoid them at all costs (sacrificing health, well-being, and time, even compromising on standards), especially in our current work climate, with a moving economy, quiet quitting, and exhaustion. After the last few years, managers are even less likely to have these conversations. This month, I’m sharing five excuses I hear managers make when I ask: Why are you not having that conversation?
“I’m afraid they will quit” Turnover happens, and it’s happening more frequently in some industries. Managers feel like they are constantly hiring, training, and rebuilding their teams; it’s adding to the already deepening burnout rate. There is a willingness to keep someone on their team who is not performing rather than risk replacing them. They perceive the former as a lesser risk, keeping an underperforming staff.
“I don’t have the time” I can’t count how many times I hear managers complain about an employee’s performance, and when I ask what strategies they have tried, more often than not, the response is ‘I don’t have time to sit with them, it’s just faster for me to do the work.”
I don’t want to be mean” Many managers will recount the story of a former boss who was ‘mean’ and ‘out of touch’ with the work and tell me, ‘I never want to be like that.’ They will tiptoe around the most difficult situations, fearing they will not be ‘liked’ by their people. They are willing to compromise on staff performance to be liked by their people.
“They are just a difficult person” I hear from managers that someone is ‘difficult’ and previous conversations have been met with defensiveness, confrontation, and frustration. Some managers develop cold feet talking to staff that they believe to be unyielding to advise.
“I don’t have the energy” Managers are exhausted; between the pandemic, the changing landscape of working from home, and uncertainties across industries. They are exhausted and simply don’t want to face potentially challenging conversations.
How many of the above excuses have you made to avoid difficult conversations with staff? I’ve said them all – I also know that one of the most powerful tools for me as a manager was learning how to have courageous conversations with my employees.