Has a supervisor ever asked you how to handle a “situation” with one of their direct reports and once you suggest corrective action you are met with resistance? Or have supervisors delayed the corrective action until it “is almost too late”? Most supervisors will experience a time when their efforts to redirect staff behaviors haven’t resulted in appropriate or significant improvement and it becomes necessary to elevate from documentation, conversations and coaching to corrective action. Why do some corrective action suggestions that you make as an educated, trained Human Resource professional end up being delayed or ignored? New supervisors are especially vulnerable. There is often a gap in their competency that causes a gap in their confidence.
Here are a few reasons new supervisors (and sometimes seasoned supervisors) avoid corrective action:
- They are still adjusting from being promoted from coworker to supervisor.
- They may not have training for how to adeptly address difficult issues.
- They moved to a supervisory role with little or no leadership experience.
- The supervisor doesn’t want to be seen as the bad person or hurt someone’s feelings.
- The supervisor is concerned that a hard-to-replace employee may leave.
How can you share confidence building tips that will help improve the chances of a “good” corrective action conversation? No doubt you are already providing the “how-to’s” for correctly filling out the corrective action form, assuring alignment with policy and sharing some scripts of “what to say/what not to say” to prevent grievances. In addition, a useful focus is to prepare the supervisor for potential emotional employee responses, such as:
Crying: Always have water and tissues available and within reach, so the employee doesn’t have to ask. A good strategy is to wait a few minutes to allow the individual to regain their composure. Respond gently, “I realize our conversation may be upsetting for you”. Take the high road even if it appears the tears are fake, showing respect to the individual since humans express and process positive and negative emotions differently.
The Silent Treatment: Silence isn’t golden in a corrective action meeting. “Silence is one of the hardest arguments to refute” – Josh Billings. If a staff member is unresponsive, eliminate closed questions that result in nods, head-shakes or yes or no answers. To ensure the individual understands the corrective action, say something like; “We are about to conclude for now, tell me what you understand?”
Angry Responses: Some may turn to anger. Always keep yourself safe. Try de-escalating the situation by responding with calm body language and tone. Allow the person time to revert to a calmer state before continuing. Angry people often talk loud, fast and in a higher pitch. Keep your tone low, your pace slower and your voice soft.
Finger pointing and blaming others: Also known as the “it’s not me” syndrome. Avoid saying you are not meeting to talk about other employee’s performance because you may be ignoring a legitimate complaint. Redirect the conversation to help the employee focus and to prevent sidestepping into other issues. “I understand you have concerns and we can discuss that at another time. For this meeting I’d like to focus our conversation.”
Corrective action conversations are easier said than done, however supervisor preparation and support from a Human Resource professional can significantly improve the chances that the conversation achieves the desired results.
Webinar Information: This 30-minute webinar will provide insights from an experienced supervisor and certified business coach on why supervisors avoid corrective action and how to prepare these individuals for the often emotional, but inevitable conversation.
About The Presenter
Michele Kimmel-Fors is an ENCOMPASS Account Manager and the Executive Director for COMPASS Consulting, an ENCOMPASS division. Michele holds a master’s degree in education and is a Certified Business Coaching Specialist with over twenty years of leadership and management experience.
In her role as an ENCOMPASS account manager, Michele assists client companies in optimizing the utilization of their EAP benefits. Through COMPASS Consulting, she provides business and leadership coaching, organizational consultations and skill development to address work-place challenges and culture change.
Michele enjoys working with individuals and teams to strengthen mission, vision and values driven work environments and build positive organizational cultures.