101 Tough Conversations to Have with Employees: A Manager's Guide to Addressing Performance, Conduct, and Discipline Challenges [NOOK Book]


Inappropriate attire, lateness, sexually offensive behavior, not to mention productivity and communication issues ... these are just a few of the uncomfortable topics bosses must sometimes discuss with their employees. 101 Tough Conversations to Have with Employees offers realistic sample dialogues managers can use to facilitate clear, direct interactions with their employees, helping them sidestep potential awkwardness and meet issues head-on. This practical, solution-oriented book walks readers through some of ...
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101 Tough Conversations to Have with Employees: A Manager's Guide to Addressing Performance, Conduct, and Discipline Challenges

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Inappropriate attire, lateness, sexually offensive behavior, not to mention productivity and communication issues ... these are just a few of the uncomfortable topics bosses must sometimes discuss with their employees. 101 Tough Conversations to Have with Employees offers realistic sample dialogues managers can use to facilitate clear, direct interactions with their employees, helping them sidestep potential awkwardness and meet issues head-on. This practical, solution-oriented book walks readers through some of the most common—as well as the most serious—employee problems they are likely to encounter. Covering everything from substandard performance reviews to personal hygiene to termination meetings, this handy guide helps managers treat their people with dignity, focusing not just on what to say but also on how to say it. This helpful book provides proven techniques managers can use to protect themselves and their organizations...and get the very best from their people.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Falcone (vice president, Human Resources, Time Warner Cable; 2600 Phrases for Effective Performance Reviews), offers HR guidance here by giving us the beginnings of 101 tough conversations a manager may need to have with staff members. Grouped roughly by type of problem, the conversations each include a scenario, outline a solution with a sample piece of dialog, and alert the reader to potential legal or HR entanglements that might arise from the situation. Whether the book is of any use will depend on how comfortable the reader is in assuming Falcone's voice. The conversations generally follow a set pattern: force employees to admit their mistakes, make them feel guilt over it, extract their commitment to improve, and outline consequences if they don't. The sample dialogs themselves are apparently entirely fabricated, occasionally far-fetched, and begin to sound very similar over the course of the book. Those who have read Falcone's other books may want to pick this up for completeness, but most would be better served with something like Phillip L. Hunsaker and Tony Alessandra's more nuanced The Art of Managing People.
—Brian Walton

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814413494
  • Publisher: AMACOM
  • Publication date: 4/8/2009
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 155,175
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Paul Falcone (Valencia, CA) is Vice President of Human Resources at Nickelodeon. He is the author of 2600 Phrases for Effective Performance Reviews (978-0-8144-7282-8), 101 Sample Write-Ups for Documenting Employee Performance Problems (978-0-8144-7977-3), and 96 Great Interview Questions to Ask Before You Hire (978-0-8144-1351-7).
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Read an Excerpt

Introduction: The Rules of Engagement

To make employee turnarounds and epiphanies successful, there are a

few key rules of communication to follow: First, remember that it’s not

what you say but how you say it that counts. That may sound like an old

saying that your grandparents taught you, but in the world of work, people

tend to respond in kind: If you demonstrate respect and compassion,

you’re likely to receive a similar response, even when dealing with the

most uncomfortable and confrontational workplace situations.

Second, your greatest asset when dealing with others is guilt, not

anger. Anger is an external response: When people are mad at another

person, they look outward to voice their frustration. Guilt, on the other

hand, is internal: When people feel guilty, they look inward and tend to

assume responsibility for the problem at hand. That’s the Golden Rule of

Workplace Leadership: Allow people to assume responsibility for their

actions, and you’ll ‘‘pierce their heart’’ and get them to want to change

things for themselves. Try to force them to do something by making them

mad or by challenging or embarrassing them, and they’ll resist the change

that’s being forced on them. We’ll discuss strategies for invoking guilt

rather than anger responses throughout the book, and psst . . . this works

just as effectively in your personal life as well!

Third, remember that whatever you want for yourself, give to another.

So many times people demand respect, open communication, and other

forms of social acceptance without realizing that they don’t give those

things to others. At a time when many demographers and sociologists are

pointing to major shortages in the labor market because of the upcoming

retirement of the baby boom generation, retention is vital. Yet people

tend to join companies and leave managers: They initially see the value

of the company, its reputation, and perception as a great place to work—

only to flee from a manager whom they no longer trust or respect.

They also say that the difference between an active and a passive job

seeker is one bad day in the office. When that proverbial straw breaks,

sometimes over seemingly minor issues, the job change mechanism kicks

into gear, and at best you’ll have a worker who has become mentally

unemployed. Then you’re faced with the ‘‘employees who quit and leave’’

versus the ‘‘employees who quit and stay’’ syndrome, and it’s only a matter

of time until something blows up.

Folks, life is too short! And if your company is anything like the typical

company in corporate America, there’s usually enough work to sink a battleship.

You certainly don’t need all the added angst and pressure that

comes from walking on eggshells around people who you really don’t get

along with. That’s simply too much for most people to bear, and yes,

there’s a better way to manage your career as well as your subordinates.

Which leads us to the fourth rule of thumb: Honesty is the best policy.

Now I know what you’re thinking: Oh please, that’s very easily said

from the HR ivory tower, but I’ve got to work side by side with these

people every day, so please spare me the hackneyed adages! Being open

and honest is particularly difficult when you’re dealing with certain kinds

of employees, and the confrontation just isn’t worth it.’’

In reality, honesty has to be the basis of everything you do as a leader.

Confrontation is tough for all of us. Just remember that differences in

opinion are perfectly acceptable; however, confrontation in the negative

sense is optional. Speaking with others in a respectful and thoughtful

tone, regardless of the content of your message, will allow them to assume

responsibility for their actions or, in the case of termination, get on with

their lives. Try these on for size:

> Janet, I appreciate all of your hard work and effort over the past three

months, but we’re at the end of your probation period, and I’m sorry to

say that this just isn’t working for us. I know how hard you’ve tried to

improve in light of the discussions we’ve had, and I’d guess that you probably

feel that it’s not a ‘‘love connection’’ on your end either, but I don’t

believe this was a good match of your strengths to our needs, and I’m

afraid we’ll have to separate your employment today. We’ll label this as a

‘‘probationary termination’’ in our records, and you’ll still be eligible for

rehire with the company if some other opportunity surfaces in the future.

In addition, we won’t contest your ability to get unemployment insurance.

> Sam, through absolutely no fault of your own, our company is going

through a restructuring, and we’re going to have to eliminate a number of

positions. Yours is unfortunately one of them, and I’m so sorry. I wish it

could be different, and we’ll do whatever we can to help you through this

unexpected transition in your career, but please understand that these

sorts of things do happen in people’s careers, and I’m afraid that your

position is impacted as part of a larger restructuring. We’ll discuss a number

of ways that we’d like to help you, but before we go much further with

this discussion, I just want to check and make sure you’re okay. . . .

No, these examples aren’t exactly fun messages to deliver, but they’re

compassionate and understanding. You’ll more than likely find that people

are willing to meet you halfway and become part of the solution any

time you present issues that affect them personally—even terminations

and layoffs—with kindness and concern.

In the first example, the probationary employee being terminated for

cause will certainly feel remorseful—‘‘I didn’t want to lose this job and

I’ve tried so hard. I’m sorry if I disappointed you, and truth be told, I’ve

disappointed myself’’—but probably not litigious. Remorse and regret

stem from guilt: ‘‘I was part of the problem and couldn’t increase my

performance to a level that was acceptable to the company.’’ And guilt

always looks internally for shared responsibility and accountability.

In the second example, the layoff was no one’s fault. These things

simply happen, and the supervisor was very caring and willing to say, ‘‘I’m

so sorry.’’ Those three words are critical and so underused! It costs nothing

to say I’m sorry, as it costs nothing to say thank you, but few supervisors

make consistent use of those magic words. When employees sue companies

for wrongful termination, one of the first things they typically complain

of is, ‘‘I can’t believe after all I had done for that company, they

threw me out and never even said they were sorry!’’ That need to hear I’m

sorry is a universally human trait, so don’t be shy about using those very

words. It’s fair, humane, and fills a very important need in others’ lives.

In fact, a lawsuit is typically a tool of workplace revenge. When employees

feel like they were stripped of their dignity, humiliated, or disrespected

at the time when they were most vulnerable, they often feel a

need to get back at the company. We all know about incidents of workplace

violence and lawsuits that plague the workplace, but imagine how

much easier it would be to treat people fairly and respectfully at the time

of their greatest vulnerability and allow them to get on with their lives.

Just think how you’d like to be treated under those same circumstances,

and use yourself as a guide for handling the situation.

That being said, don’t manage by fear of a lawsuit, and don’t be afraid

of being sued because that’s simply the cost of doing business from time

to time in corporate America. You should be concerned, however, that

you are being sued on your terms—not theirs. And that means that you

should always be prepared to defend a termination or other adverse action

by showing that you were a reasonable and responsible employer

and that you accorded employees with workplace due process. In other

words, the record should reflect that you listened to the employee’s side

of the story, investigated the situation thoroughly and objectively, and

reached a reasonable and timely conclusion before taking action. That

may sound simple, but it can be difficult to avoid acting in the heat of

the moment when something goes wrong in the office or on the shop


Finally, the fifth and most important rule in this book is actually a

word: perception. Perception is never right or wrong—it just is. And

whenever you use the word perception, you’re not accusing anyone of

anything or proclaiming to be stating facts. Instead, you’re simply relaying

how you’re seeing things from your perspective or what you’re hearing

from others.

Let’s look at the most common problem with people management in

corporate America today: grade inflation during performance reviews.

Performance reviews are often mandatory in many companies and

needed to justify an employee’s annual merit increase. But because many

supervisors don’t keep records of their employees’ performance throughout

the year or meet with their staff members on a quarterly or interim

basis, they have little information on which to justify the grades they give.

They of course want to avoid upsetting the employee, whom they have to

deal with for the entire upcoming year, so rather than providing an honest

grade showing that the person doesn’t meet company expectations,

they inflate the grade to show that the person is performing at an acceptable—

albeit not stellar—level.

Well, this scenario goes on for several years, and low and behold, the

company suddenly finds itself in dire straights and decides it must lay off

a certain percentage of its workforce. The manager, of course, wants to

lay off the marginal performer (i.e., the one who’s been ‘‘skating by’’ in a

quasi-job that produces few results). However, not realizing that the

paper record created over the past few years shows that this individual

has consistently met expectations, the supervisor is shocked to find that

he or she can’t simply lay off the true substandard performer.

Why not? Because more often than not, that particular employee is

the longest tenured, the oldest, or otherwise the most protected person

in the group. The fact that you gave this person an overall performance

review score of 3—meeting expectations—while everyone else on the

team got a 4 or a 5—exceeding expectations—means little in the grand

scheme of things. That’s because the employee ‘‘heard’’ that she met company

expectations for the entire year with an overall acceptable score.

Whether she knew that her 3 was the lowest score in the group isn’t

really at issue because overall performance review scores are absolute, not

relative. In other words, if her overall score was a 3, then it doesn’t matter

if that was the lowest score in the group: A score of 3 still ‘‘meets’’ company

expectations, and that’s the only message that really counts in terms

of the record your company has created.

At that point, human resources or your outside legal counsel becomes

a barrier that’s standing in your way of getting done what you want and

need done, and then you’re at odds with your own internal support team.

It’s a lose-lose situation because you weren’t honest and upfront in your

conversations with this subordinate all along, and now you’re kicking

yourself (and anyone else in your path) for not allowing you to get your

way. The end result? You have to lay off someone less tenured on your

team (who happens to be your star performer) and now begin the progressive

discipline process with the laggard employee from scratch—even

though she should have been disciplined a long time back.

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Table of Contents

Preface xi

Acknowledgments xv

Introduction: The Rules of Engagement 1

Part I Uncomfortable Workplace Situations

1 Common Managerial and Supervisory Discussions 9

Scenario 1 Mediating Disputes Among Subordinates 9

Scenario 2 Appropriate Responses to Requests to Speak "Off the Record" 13

Scenario 3 Promoting a Neophyte into a First-Time Supervisory Role 15

Scenario 4 New Supervisor Syndrome 18

Scenario 5 Inheriting an Employee with Disciplinary Problems 20

Scenario 6 Stopping Attitude Problems in Their Tracks 23

Scenario 7 Advice Before a Holiday Party or an Offsite Event 24

2 Individual Appearance and Uncomfortable Workplace Dilemmas 28

Scenario 8 Bad Hair Days 29

Scenario 9 Inappropriate Dress 32

Scenario 10 Body Piercing and Body Art 33

Scenario 11 Tattoos 34

Scenario 12 Halitosis (Bad Breath) 36

Scenario 13 Body Odor from Lack of Cleanliness 37

Scenario 14 Body Odor from Suspected Medical Reason 39

3 Cultural and Religious Differences 42

Scenario 15 Inappropriate Display of Religious Icons 43

Scenario 16 Supervisor Proselytizes to Subordinates 47

Scenario 17 Offensive Food Preparation and Spicy Smells 49

Scenario 18 Euphemisms like "Honey," "Sweetie," and "Doll" 50

Scenario 19 Speaking Foreign Languages in the Workplace 53

Scenario 20 Inappropriate Display of Sexually Explicit Material 55

Scenario 21 Lack of Understanding of Multicultural Differences 58

Part II Poor Work Habits and Job Performance Concerns

4 Performance Transgressions 63

Scenario 22 Lack of Quality, Detail, or Efficiency 64

Scenario 23 Lack of Quantity or Speed 66

Scenario 24 Substandard Customer Satisfaction 69

Scenario 25 Lack of Sales Production71

Scenario 26 Failure to Learn New Material During Training 73

Scenario 27 Acts Resulting in a Loss to the Employer 76

Scenario 28 Failure to Follow Through, or "Dropping the Ball" 78

5 Policy and Procedure Violations 81

Scenario 29 Failure to Adhere to Safety Rules 82

Scenario 30 Excessive Personal Telephone Calls 84

Scenario 31 Excessive Time Spent on the Internet 86

Scenario 32 Unauthorized Use of Company Equipment and Facilities 89

Scenario 33 Working Unauthorized Overtime 91

Scenario 34 Off-Duty Conduct and Moonlighting 94

6 Excessive Absenteeism and Tardiness 98

Scenario 35 Excessive Unscheduled Absence: "No Fault" System 103

Scenario 36 Excessive Unscheduled Absence: "Excuse-Based" System 105

Scenario 37 Patterning Excessive, Unscheduled Absence Around Weekends 107

Scenario 38 Rolling Calendar Year Maneuvers 108

Scenario 39 Excessive Tardiness 110

Scenario 40 Exempt Employees Who Choose to Come and Go as They Please 112

7 Lack of Requisite Skills 115

Scenario 41 Inferior Job Knowledge 116

Scenario 42 Lack of Technical Skills 118

Scenario 43 Inadequate Problem-Solving Skills 121

Scenario 44 Substandard Written Expression 123

Scenario 45 Poor Time Management 125

Scenario 46 Lack of Organization and Neatness 128

Part III Inappropriate Workplace Behavior and Conduct

8 Sexually Offensive Behavior 135

Scenario 47 Foul Language in the Workplace 136

Scenario 48 E-Mail Misuse 139

Scenario 49 Finding Pornography on an Employee's Computer 142

Scenario 50 Bullying 144

Scenario 51 Discriminatory Comments or Racial Epithets 147

Scenario 52 Leering 149

Scenario 53 Sexual Harassment Findings (Reverse Harassment) 152

9 Substandard Communication Skills 156

Scenario 54 Tattletales, Gossipmongers, and Snitches 158

Scenario 55 Whiners and Complainers 161

Scenario 56 Requests for Confidential Conversations from Other Supervisors' Subordinates 163

Scenario 57 Poor Listening Skills 166

Scenario 58 Failure to Communicate Upward 169

Scenario 59 Establishing Effective Staff Meetings 171

10 Personal Style Issues 174

Scenario 60 Suspected Alcoholism or Substance Abuse 174

Scenario 61 Inability to Accept Constructive Criticism 179

Scenario 62 Lack of Sensitivity and Protocol (E-Mail Censuring) 181

Scenario 63 Badgering and Challenging One's Supervisor 183

Scenario 64 Lack of Teamwork and Relationship-Building Skills 186

Scenario 65 Laziness and Lack of Commitment 188

Scenario 66 Blamers and Excuse Makers 191

Scenario 67 Coworker Jealousy and Employees Who Can't Let Go of Their Anger 193

Scenario 68 Supremacists-Arrogance and Superior Attitudes 194

11 Leadership Style Challenges and Career Management Obstacles 197

Scenario 69 Stalled Career Syndrome 198

Scenario 70 Unwillingness to Confront Problems Head-On 201

Scenario 71 Staff Motivation Conversations 204

Scenario 72 Protecting Your Company from Legal Liability (Documentation) 207

Scenario 73 Inability to Provide Constructive Criticism 210

Scenario 74 Handling Group Complaints Wisely 212

Scenario 75 Lack of Diversity Awareness 216

Scenario 76 Lack of Leadership 218

Part IV Corporate Actions

12 Corporate (Intentional) Actions 225

Scenario 77 Probationary Termination 226

Scenario 78 Administering Disciplinary Warnings 229

Scenario 79 Administering Decision-Making Leaves 231

Scenario 80 Termination for Cause (in Conjunction with Progressive Discipline) 235

Scenario 81 Convincing an Employee to Leave Voluntarily When There Are No Progressive Disciplinary Warnings on File 237

Scenario 82 Negotiating a Separation Package When There Are No Progressive Disciplinary Warnings on File 240

13 Corporate ("No Fault") Actions 244

Scenario 83 Layoff: Position Elimination-LIFO 245

Scenario 84 Layoff: Position Elimination-Lack of Qualifications 247

Scenario 85 Layoff: Position Elimination-Union Bumping Privileges 250

Scenario 86 Layoff: Position Elimination-Department Closure 254

Scenario 87 Layoff: Position Elimination-Plant Closure (WARN Act) 256

Scenario 88 Follow-Up Discussions with Survivors After Layoffs Occur 258

14 Summary Offenses (Immediate Discharge) 262

Scenario 89 Employee Theft 263

Scenario 90 Selling Proprietary Products on the Internet 265

Scenario 91 Time Card Fraud 268

Scenario 92 Threats of Violence in the Workplace 269

Scenario 93 Sexual Harassment 271

Scenario 94 Falsification of Company Records 274

Scenario 95 Insubordination 276

15 Special Circumstances 280

Scenario 96 Welcoming Back Employees Returning from a Stress Leave of Absence 281

Scenario 97 Dealing with Employees in Crisis: Isolation 285

Scenario 98 Dealing with Employees in Crisis: Suicidal Concerns 288

Scenario 99 Dealing with Employees in Crisis: Homicidal Concerns 290

Scenario 100 Terminating Employees Who Are on Investigatory Leave 292

Scenario 101 Verbally Accepting an Employee's Resignation 295

Index 299

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2009

    101 Tough Conversations to have with Employees

    This is absolutely a "must read" for any manager or supervisor.
    If you're in need of an office reference, look no further than this one, folks.
    This book makes the "tough" conversations easier, with real world experiences, guiding you through each one in a thoughtful manner.
    Not only is this one great for tough conversations at work, it works pretty well on the neighbors and family members, too!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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