Tips for Confronting an Employee About Performance Issues

No one likes confrontation. Well, maybe some people do…but they belong more in an MMA ring than they do in a corporate conference room. Conflict is rarely good for business. It saps morale and adds tension to otherwise productive relationships.

That said, tough conversations sometimes have to happen. If an employee’s performance falls below expectations, you have to take steps to improve the situation…or else start to look for someone to fill that road.

You never want to rush into the replacement route. It’s time-consuming and expensive. It’s also usually unnecessary. In most cases, a simple fix can usually bring performance up to snuff.

With that in mind, here are some tips for talking to your employees about performance issues without ratcheting up tension or sparking unnecessary conflict:

Keep Calm

It’s generally a bad idea to take advice from memes, but, in this case…yeah, keep calm and so forth.

Nothing is gained by getting angry. You simply put the employee on the defensive and create an adversarial situation. You want to fix the problem, not work out your inner frustration. Approach the situation in a professional and unemotional way.


Do your homework before you start talking to your employee. Having specifics in mind will contribute to a productive conversation. Use the information you gather to identify the problem in detail…not just “you need to work harder,” but “your output is 12% lower than average, especially in these key areas.”

Also, go into the discussion with specific corrections in mind. Imagine that you are giving a presentation to a client. Treat the meeting with your employee with the same level of preparation and attention to detail.

Stay Constructive and Be Ready For Feedback

The goal of your discussion should be to make the employee better. Think of yourself as a coach. You want to give tips and assign exercises that will lead to better performance. The process shouldn’t involve accusations or threats of punishment (though there can be discussions of consequences if the performance issue demands it).

Remember that your employee will have some opinions on the matter. Be open to listening to their perspective.

They might provide additional information about the situation that you didn’t know before. If their output is slow because they don’t have the equipment they need, or they are held back by some administrative hang-up, it might mean that you can fix the problem rather easily.

Leave with a Plan

At the end of the discussion, you and the employee should have an action plan in place. They should know exactly how their performance has fallen below your expectations. They should also know what they need to do to fix the issue.

Moreover, the two of you should reach an understanding of what would constitute an acceptable performance. As much as possible, this should consist of a measurable goal, such as an output target or quantitative improvement metric. That way, in future discussions, no doubt will exist as to whether the employee has achieved the improvement or not.

Also, the plan should include a timeline. Give them a set period to achieve the desired changes, and schedule another meeting in the future to discuss progress.

Any employee, no matter how dedicated or talented, will have improvements they need to make. Having these discussions gets easier when you have a conscientious and competent team in place.

Working with a strong recruiting partner, like SmartTalent, provides you with the best workers possible, the kind of people who respond well to guidance and evolve as your business changes.

Contact SmartTalent today to learn more.

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