HOW TO HAVE THAT DIFFICULT CONVERSATION WITH AN EMPLOYEE

Updated: Jan 13, 2019


You know how it goes...


5 minutes after they walk out of your office it comes to you:

  • The perfect comeback.

  • The key phrase that will calm the situation.

  • The right attitude that will earn their trust.

  • The irrefutable logic that will drive the point home.

  • The right coaching question that will move the dialogue forward.

Its SO obvious what I need to say to get them back on track, but in the moment we panic!


While in the spotlight, we get tongued-tied and while it’s all on the tip of your tongue, it feels like we just botched the entire conversation.


A lot of participants in the Managing The Unmanageable workshop tell us they feel this exact way.


As managers they know they have the responsibility of correcting problematic behavior and getting employees back on track, but in the moment they often don’t have the presence of mind they need to effectively handle the situation when said employee is in front of them.


They also report that this fear – not knowing what to say – is one of the top 5 reasons they avoid having the conversation at all. Also on that top 5 list is the fear that mismanaging the conversation may make things worse.


And then the situation festers. Until eventually the conversation that would have taken 5 minutes becomes a grievance that you, their supervisor, have to deal with. Heck, by the time its come to your attention, it might have even escalated to the point where its gonna involve a few lawyers and cost a lot of money.


But the thing is … getting comfortable with having the 5-minute conversation only comes with practice. And how do you get practice if you’re afraid of screwing it up?

This is where our Managing The Unmanageable workshop meets an important need and builds a core competency. 


We hire a live actor who is skilled in improvisational theatre to portray the unmanageable employee. Our participants come up to the front of the room one at a time and attempt the difficult conversation they’ve been dreading (and/or avoiding).


In traditional workshop situations where participants use role-play, no one wants to make it to hard on one another or embarrass themselves. Our actor doesn’t make it easy and she or he isn't afraid of making it real. She won't give up until the participant has won them over.


We use a format called “Forum Theatre” to stop the action, so participants can call on their fellows to offer advice and formulate a course of action.


In partnership with Russell Stratton from Bluegem Learning, Managing the Unmanageable provides a practical framework to structure the conversation, and coaches participants in how to be effective when the time comes.


And because we have the ability to rewind each scene, your managers gets to try it again and again making them that much more effective when the situation comes up in real life.


That’s why this work sticks when the pressure’s on.


It’s as close to having the real conversation as you can get without having your real unmanageable employee in the workshop with you.


By applying the techniques and watching others apply them in a safe environment, your employees are leveraging their “episodic memory”. When they return to the workplace, they won't have to remember what they learned or pull a binder off a shelf. They only have to call upon the memory of what they did in the workshop.

Ken Cameron has coached many senior business leaders, lead workshops for engaged leaders and facilitated retreats for dynamic organizations including The City of Calgary, The United Way, TEC Canada and The Calgary Stampede.


To learn more about Corporate Culture Shift and The Managing the UnManageable Workshop please fill out the form below.


We will send you a detailed breakdown of how the workshop works and a representative will be in touch to help determine if you would benefit from a direct conversation with Ken Cameron regarding your organization's specific needs.

Oh, one more thing …


The French have a word for the witty retort you should have made but you didn’t come up with until it was too late. They call it l’esprit de l’escalier or “The spirit of the staircase”.

Don't wait until you’re in the stairwell. Learn to say it in the meeting room.