Updated: Oct 2, 2019
At some point or another in your adult life, you will be tasked with having to navigate an awkward conversation. Mix in the potential for hurt feelings and the meeting becomes even more... cringeworthy.
“We see you. P.S. Mind your business, Gary. ”
Breaking Bad... News
So, you have recently been promoted to Operations Manager. Congratulations! All those long hours of working on special projects for the company and expensive degrees and certifications posted on your wall are finally starting to pay off. But just as soon as you start to find your stride in this role, Susan from HR sends you an email regarding one of your employees’ hygiene practices.
Apparently, Bob is in too much of a rush to grab a stick of deodorant after training for the half marathon every morning prior to work. Yet, his colleagues have to deal with labor of his efforts. Not cool.
What do you do?
Respect their right to Privacy.
While an employee’s actions may bring offense to others, they have just as much of a right to work in a hostile-free environment as anyone else.
In this regard, when reaching out to them (whether by calling their extension or sending a Google Hangout invite), make sure to keep the nature as general and relaxed as possible.
Subject Line Example: Quick Touch-Base
Make sure to keep this meeting only visible to you and the other person on the calendar.
Pick a private location.
Your office is nice but a conference room is better. This spares the person the other walk of shame.
As you can imagine, being talked to about a shortcoming may be a bit humiliating for anyone. Your team’s confidence in your discretion is important to maintaining morale. Also, having private conversations in public areas or frequently trafficked areas is just not a good look. We all have a Gossipy Gary or two in an office, lurking around the cubicle.
We see you. P.S. Mind your business, Gary.
Just be honest.
If you’re a little uncomfortable with having to deliver some bad news, it’s best to let your employee know this upfront.
After small talk, a simple, “Listen, this is a little awkward for me but (insert news here),” goes a long way. Keep it concise and genuine. People can get worked up and/or lose trust in you if your nonverbal language does not match up with your words.
Mind all stakeholders.
Chances are the employee may ask who complained. In which case, you want to mention your goal to ensure that everyone is protected. Therefore, anonymity is very important. Alternatively, it helps to wrap it up with bringing the attention back to them in a positive light.
Whereas, if they notice a difference going forward or would like to discuss any work related concerns, provide them with your version of the open door policy.
Wrapping it up.
Forgo the compliment sandwich – that suggestion that you should open with flattery, deliver bad news, and end with flattery.
The truth is, it’s natural to get on edge when being called in for an impromptu meeting. So, when you open with compliments out of the blue, any professional can smell B.S. from a mile a way.
Instead, wrap up the conversation with something that matters. Mention that soccer tournament that Margaret’s daughter was prepping for. If they are in the process of purchasing a home, and you’re in the market, allow them to be an expert by getting their feedback on real estate companies.
Or just simply thank them for taking the time to meet with you.
Be mindful of the optics.
If all goes well, walk out of the conference room together and make sure to part ways on a light note.This gives the rest of your employees the perception that the talk you had with the other individual was no big deal. Bonus: that particular employee might feel more confident and less like they just left the principal’s office.
Cover your bases.
I cannot stress this enough:
It is important to document all communication with your employees. This ensures trust, accountability, and timelines/paper trails.
Make sure to follow up with the appropriate parties with a recap of the meeting. This includes their responses (especially if questionable), their rebuttal, and resolution. This lets HR, directors, and any governing board know that you’ve taken measures seriously and adhered to your job’s policy. Seriously, timestamps are never a bad thing.