By Maja Trpevska
Human Resources

It’s one of the most difficult aspects of a manager’s role, but having difficult conversations is critical and should never be avoided. These conversations shouldn’t be rushed either; careful preparation is the key to ensure the message is understood. As tempting as it might be, it’s better to avoid transmitting the message by email or text. Face-to-face contact is important in these situations. 

People are one of the key contributors to your business. Whether you are big or smallhaving the right people in your team is crucial to successfully run your business, and there should be enough trust to have difficult conversations. 


Before you meet with the employee, think about how you are going to have the conversation and what you want to achieve out of it

Ask yourself: 

  • How is the staff member failing to meet the expectations and performance requirements outlined for their role? 
  • Does the staff member understand and act by your company values?
  • What conduct is causing the problem? 
  • Why is this staff member making others uncomfortable or what impact is it having on others? 
  • Does this employee seem unhappy, unmotivated, or disengaged? 

If you identify an issue, you need to prepare for the conversationDrafting your discussion pointsyour proposed suggestions and preferred outcome beforehand is very useful. The conversation is likely to be unfocused if no prior thought has been put in, and the meeting will end up being ineffective. If you’re unsure how to prepare for the meeting, speak to your HR Advisor for support 

It is important to note the performance and conduct concerns in writing for the meeting. When you prepare for the conversation, think about ways that can help the employee succeed in their role and the reason behind their behaviour. Maybe the business halet them down by not providing the right tools and resources? 

And remember that iyou are thinking about disciplinary action in this conversation, then the employee should be provided with a minimum of 24 hours’ notice. 

During the meeting: 

During the meeting, it is important to give timely and specific feedback which include examples of the performance or the conduct in question as the employee may disagree with the feedback receivedGiving and receiving negative feedback is difficult and managing emotions is important.  An employee will often display anger and/or aggression and here are some suggestions on how to deal with them:  

If the employee becomes aggressive and/or threatens you:

  1. Stay calm  
  2. Take a break if required 
  3. Empathise with the employee. Allow them to ask questions and explain why they are angry 
  4. Remind them of their rights and obligations in the process – they are still to abide by company policies, and violence or threats are not tolerated 
  5. Terminate the discussion and reschedule the meeting if there is a risk to safety 

If the employee becomes emotional:

  1. Allow the employee to calm down and wait before continuing the discussion 
  2. Don’t react negatively and avoid ending the meeting  
  3. Acknowledge these emotions and treat them with respect, even if you disagree with them 

If the employee walks out:

  1. Request another meeting in writing to address issues  
  2. If the employee keeps avoiding meetings, disciplinary action could be appropriate.

Things to AVOID:

  1. Yell or scream at the employee  
  2. Do not get aggravated or raise your voice if you get frustrated 
  3. Say false statements or partly true statements to get your point across 
  4. Bully employees during discussions by belittling them 
  5. Bring up instances which have already been discussed before to ‘add’ to the conversation 
  6. Discuss the employee’s issues with other employees if not part of the management team  and/or directly involved or required to be notified 


Follow-ups and Check-ins 

After the meeting, a plan should be in place for the employee to follow to ensure the conduct and/or performance improves. It’s important to have followed up discussions as early and often as needed to ensure the employee is on the right track to succeed in their role. These can be part of a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP). 

Sometimes, during the meeting, the employee can be so focused on the emotion that they miss the vital part of the conversation: the steps they need to take to improve! By continuing to check in with the employee on a regular basis, managers can make sure the employee is clear on which actions will lead to improvement, as well as answer any questions or concerns that may have arisen since the meeting. 

To conclude, it is important to never to avoid a difficult conversation. If you ignore the behaviour or conductdysfunction and stress can arise for you and the rest of the team. Also, you owe it to your employee to let them know they are not performing well. A person cannot change what they don’t know. Speak to one of the HR team to help you with this, our team of expert are there to help. Call us on 1300 4 ADVICE. 


Newsletter Signup

Sign up to our newsletter

With useful information and tips to minimise risk and help you grow your business.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.