How to talk to problem employees

Happy employees

Nothing you tell your employees should ever come as a surprise. 

This is especially important with bad news. 

If you are telling an employee that they are at risk of being fired, and they had no idea, then you are the one who made a mistake, not them. 

But don’t tell your employees about their bad performance. 

Ask them about it instead. 

What do your employees think?

Begin by getting their opinion. 

Ask your problem employee how they think they are doing. 

Talk to them about whether they think they are successful and why. What is working well for them, what is not working well, and where do they believe they are bringing the most value.

If they point out areas of weakness or difficulty, ask them why they think those exist, and what they would like to do about it. 

You want to understand how well they understand their role and how dedicated they are to improve. You may discover that their problems stem from a lack of communication or training, rather than a more permanent problem. 

Discuss a specific project

If the problem stems from a specific project or action, ask the same questions but about that particular example. 

Start by getting them to describe the main goal. Ask about what they were hoping to achieve and how they went about achieving it. 

Ask them if they think they did achieve that goal. If they say yes, and you disagree, have them elaborate. If they say no, ask why not. 

Let your employees solve problems

Get your people thinking, talking, and problem-solving. 

Give them the freedom and responsibility to diagnose their own weaknesses and find their preferred solutions. You can still guide them and prompt them in the right direction, but the more they self-direct, the more likely it is for the change to stick. 

Do what you can to minimize surprises and maximize happy employees. 


Do your employees always know what to do? Contact me to create specific and simple business roles. 

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