5 Tips to Address Sensitive Issues With Employees

Being the boss is hard work. Sometimes you need to have serious conversations with employees on topics that aren’t the most comfortable to discuss.

Knowing how to approach these talks is important because it can make or break your success. Here are five tips to help you address sensitive issues with employees the right way.

Address Unacceptable Behavior Quickly

When an employee is misbehaving, it’s easy to wait around and hope they stop whatever it is they’re doing — i.e., coming into work late every day, missing deadlines, treating their peers in a disrespectful manner. However, saying nothing is essentially a seal of approval for these actions.

If you don’t talk to the employee, they’ll assume you don’t have a problem with their behavior. Therefore, this conduct will continue until you finally speak up.

Having Talking Points Ready

Uncomfortable conversations can be nerve-wracking, so it’s important to prepare in advance. Write down specific instances of the employee’s poor behavior, the changes you would like to see them make, and the consequences they’ll face if they fail to take action.

It’s also wise to consider how you’ll react if the employee becomes upset. In some cases, you might want to have another person in the room — i.e., an HR rep or another manager — who can help diffuse the situation if tensions rise.

Be Compassionate

Leading a conversation on a sensitive issue isn’t easy — and it’s even more difficult to be on the receiving end. Show the employee you truly care about them by displaying empathy.
Ask if they’re okay because you know how they’ve recently been conducting themselves isn’t typical for them. Focus on the behavior(s) as a negative instead of the person.

Offer Assistance

If the employee shares the cause behind their less-than-stellar behavior, know this probably isn’t easy for them. For example, mental health struggles or stress at home can easily cause performance at work to slip.

Let them know you care and want to help in any way you can. For example, you might point them in the direction of resources offered by your company’s health insurance plan or work with them to create a flexible schedule that’s more conducive to their family life.

Know the Rules

Being the boss doesn’t mean you’re allowed to say anything you want to employees. Certain remarks and questions can get you into legal trouble.

If you’re unsure whether a certain topic is off-limits, run it by human resources first. The last thing you want is to get sued because your conversation inadvertently crossed a line.

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