Need to Have a Difficult Conversation With Your Employee? Implement These 6 Steps


No matter how many years you’ve been in the game, letting go or reprimanding an employee is never easy. But, difficult conversations with employees are – unfortunately – inevitable. If you need to have a difficult conversation with one or more of your employees in the future, we’d like to offer some insight.

This Millennium Omaha blog will cover the exact steps you need to take for every difficult employee conversation.

Prep Ahead

It’s important to prepare ahead of time so that a difficult conversation doesn’t go on longer than necessary. Identify the goal of the conversation, and create talking points (there’s no need for a script) to cover your bases. Go ahead and gather documents, data, employee statements, and company policies that are relevent to your conversation.

Pro tip: Rehearse the difficult conversation a few times. Try to answer questions that your employee will likely bring up. Doing so will make it easier for you to discuss sensitive topics during the actual meeting.

Set a Date

Select an appropriate time and date to have your difficult conversation. Do your best to work around your employee’s schedule so that their daily work is least disrupted. Because a difficult conversation can make an employee emotional or upset, don’t plan a 1-on-1 conversation before a big meeting or presentation. Instead, having the conversation at the end of the day or week gives the employee enough time to digest and cope.

Once the date is set, make sure to let your employee know and send reminders.

Don’t Sugarcoat the Conversation

An effective conversation is always a direct one. While you should still be positive, don’t use vague or subjective terms that can be misunderstood. Convey the facts, and present the employee with measurable data that leaves little room for interpretation.

Let Your Employee Talk

Once you’ve presented your case, let your employee talk. Doing so provides you insight on why the issue is happening and if there’s a possible solution. Stay present in the conversation, take notes, and ask your employee to elaborate on certain points if necessary.

Create a Plan

The last step of the actual conversation is to develop a plan. Collaborate with your employee to create an actionable set of steps that will work towards resolving an issue. Before the meeting ends, you’ll also want to ask for feedback about the plan and set future check-in conversations.

Document the Conversation

Avoid the whole he said, she said dilemma by keeping a comprehensive recap of the interaction. This recap should cover basic information like who the employee is, why the conversation is happening, and when the conversation happened. The notes you took during the conversation and the developed plan should also be included in your final document. Add this document to that employee’s HR folder.