1.1 Mastering Constructive Confrontation
"Speak with clarity and purpose for maximum results."

Many supervisors dread confronting employees. It's often easier to drop hints and make indirect threats rather than initiate a face-to-face, fish-or-cut-bait conversation with an individual who must shape up, pronto.

Constructive confrontation works best when you organize your thoughts in advance. In the days before you meet with an employee whose behavior or performance is unacceptable, map out what to say so that you follow a clear, logical framework.

Take three steps to plan a successful confrontation:

  1. 1. Summarize the situation from the employee's point of view.Reflect on what the worker has said about the issue at hand. Recall specific phrases, examples and arguments you've heard. That way, you can begin the meeting by saying, “As you know, we've spoken many times about the issue of your [tardiness/poor attitude/etc.]. You've told me that [summarize what employee has said].”
  2. 2. Ask for confirmation.After you summarize the employee's past comments as they relate to the key issue, ask a neutrally worded question to confirm that you've captured his or her views accurately. Examples: “Does that sound accurate?,” “Did I represent what you've said correctly?,” “Am I leaving anything out that you'd like to add?”
  3. 3. Dignify the employee's views-and tie them to the core issue. After the employee confirms your summary, recognize the individual's right to adopt that perspective. You don't have to praise it, of course. But conveying your understanding of the employee's position in one simple, affirmative sentence ratchets down tension. From that point, connect what the employee believes to what you believe must happen next.
    1. Here's an example of how to prepare using this three-step process:

      1. Bill, a mail-room worker, has responded to my many warnings about his lackadaisical approach to his job by insisting that it's simply his personality. He says he may seem flighty, apathetic and easily distracted, but he's really motivated to perform well. When I've cited the many instances where he forgot to attend mandatory meetings or ignored my directives, he said what really counts is his performance rather than these “things on the side.”

      2. I'll summarize Bill's comments and ask, “Would you agree that's how you've responded to this issue in the past?”

      3. Once he agrees, I'll say, “Bill, I understand that you see yourself as a solid contributor here, and I'm glad you want to succeed at your job. At this point, however, the challenge you face is to succeed not on the terms you've set for yourself, but on the terms I lay out-the job requirements.”

Try This...
Take a look at this Constructive Confrontation Planning Worksheet and print a copy of it for future reference.
(Click on the Hand.)