Why HR has to have courageous conversations

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It’s not always easy to tell an employee when their work isn’t up to scratch or their attitude needs improvement but avoiding the problem won’t make it go away, warns one top coach.

“One of the challenges managers face today is that they fear having tough conversations because they don’t want to be accused of bullying or harassment,” says Kristen Hansen.

“They’re worried they would do it in the wrong way so they don’t do it at all but this means people are sometimes left for two, three or even four years with low motivation and low skill.”

While the organisation is clearly wasting resources on this employee, Hansen says the problem actually far deeper as dissatisfied staff can quickly influence those around them.

“That negative contagion impacts the entire team,” she tells HRD. “There have been many teams where a low motivation, low skill person has not been dealt with in a timely fashion and it absolutely can adversely affect the team culture and significantly affect performance – not just for their area but more broadly.”

To avoid these situations, Hansen says leaders have to be open with employees and have conversations that may be uncomfortable.

“We have to be honest about our expectations of the role and this is often where the coaching conversation has to shift to a performance management conversation,” she says.

Managers need to take those steps that are necessary if the person is not motivated or does not have the correct skills for the role because they cannot really effectively do that job,” she continues.

“We need to be courageous enough to have those conversations and embark on the process that is absolutely uncomfortable but with an objective view and with a supportive process from the organisation.”

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