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Take the Pain Out of Performance Talks

What to do when the conversation 
gets difficult…

Managers love to do evaluations when employees are doing great work. It’s typically an easy conversation about how successfully the employee completed their goals last year and setting new goals. Quickly the conversation turns to a pay raise and if your company can afford a pay raise that sounds fair and rewards the employee’s efforts everyone is happy. Unfortunately, all performance conversations don’t go that well. In fact, some performance conversations can be down right painful!

Here are some ideas that might take the pain out of those difficult conversations.

  1. Relax, it will help the employee to relax. And don’t procrastinate – the earlier the conversation takes place, the less frustrated you are likely to be about the poor performance.
  2. Take the conversation to a closed-door conference room or office and eliminate, if possible, any interruptions. This sends the message that the conversation is important to you and to the employee.
  3. Be prepared. Have the employee’s job description, any notes that you have taken from incidents that have happened that lead you to this conversation. Do your homework regarding any training that may be helpful to the employee and be open to listening to the employee.
  4. Look for themes in performance problems, does it look like the employee doesn’t take the time needed to do the work, is the employee not picking up on the details, is there a skill that they seem to lack that shows up in different areas of the work?
  5. Let the employee talk about how they think things are going. Maybe you will find out that they need more quiet time, or time with fewer interruptions. Perhaps they do not have the required Excel skill level required for the job and the lack of knowledge is slowing down the work.
  6. Be specific about the mistakes and low performance. Bring samples and show where this area of responsibility is included on their job description.
  7. Work with the employee to determine if more training would be helpful or if he/she might need outside training. If the employee seems to be doing well in other areas of the job, this might be a good investment of time and training dollars.
  8. Document the conversation. If this is the first conversation you are having with the employee about their performance, making notes for the file may be enough. If it is not the first, you will want to document the conversation as a Written Warning and have the employee sign the document for their file.
  9. Give the employee a little time to improve after the conversation. Sometimes honest feedback is what it takes to get the employee to start to make improvements.
  10. If the employee does not improve within a reasonable length of time, have another conversation – a more serious conversation – about what will happen if the poor performance continues.
  11. Don’t let the personal problems or life circumstances of the employee keep you from having the conversations and making the decisions you need to make for your business. Business decisions are often hard, and managers and business owners have a responsibility to their customers, other employees, themselves, and their families to make the right decisions at the right time.

The ups and downs of working from home. Here are the results of a recent survey…

When I started my business, I thought I needed more structure so that I would focus on work and not the dogs or laundry. Thus, I rented office space and had co-workers who also had their own businesses. I really enjoyed the connections I made there and still keep up with many of them. Did I get distracted? Of course,  but it was different than the laundry, it was because a friend stopped by to chat or internet distractions. The point is, distraction is all around and many of us have to really work at staying focused. So what about working from home verses working in an office, are we more productive? We don’t have to travel on hwy 77, that’s a gift! Another gift, we likely don’t have to dress the same, we can wear our comfy, usually less expensive clothes.

Is it a good idea to offer a work from home option for your employees? Some of us believe that we can’t supervise our employees unless we share the same space? Is that really true? Can’t we measure productivity based on work results from home or office? And what about our ability to recruit quality workers in this increasingly more challenging time? Robert Half did a survey this month and when they asked professionals if they are more likely to accept a job offer if there was a possibility of telecommuting at least some of the time, a whopping 77% of them said yes! Let’s face it, when the unemployment rate is this low, we need a way to entice applicants. Here is what else the survey said.

Here’s the downside to telecommuting:

Some workers will abuse the situation, 22%

Working from home leads to feelings of isolation, 22%

Leads to poor co-worker relationships, 17%

Complaints of less facetime with executives, 12%

There is no one to bounce ideas off, 7%

Companies save a lot of money on office buildings but may pay another price. What stands out for me with the results is a lack of identified company culture and with the lack of connection comes the lack of loyalty to the company. We’ll see what happens with this newer phenomenon of working from home, will it stick or is it a fad?

Is your employee under the influence? What to do?

What does Management or HR do if an employee shows up for work under the influence of drugs or alcohol?

It happens, in fact in the world of HR anything and everything happens. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) in New York City, alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the US. In fact, 17.6 million people, or one in every 12 adults, suffers from alcohol abuse or dependence.

So what do you do if one of your employees shows up for work under the influence of drugs or inebriated? Here are some steps that can help in those situations.

  1. Remove the employee from the work area. That doesn’t mean physically, just verbally request he/she come to your office. However, if the employee refuses, is causing harm to other employees or equipment or supplies or if you believe they are dangerous to themselves or others, you will need to call security, another supervisor for assistance. In extreme cases you may need to call the police. The goal is to cause as little disruption as possible to the other employees, their workplace and their production. It is your first responsibility to provide a safe workplace for your employees so whatever you need to do to make sure that happens, do it.
  2. Take the employee aside so you can have a conversation with them about their behavior. You can have a confidential conversation with them but make sure you have a witness to the conversation. Talk with them about the behavior you notice without diagnosing the problem. For example, you might say that others have observed their slurred speech or difficult walking. It may be that they have taken a new prescription drug and is causing a reaction, or they are having a health issue. Don’t accuse and don’t diagnose! Tell the employee you are concerned about them. Listen to their answer. If there is a reasonable cause, you should request that the employee take a drug test. Reasonable cause would generally mean slurred speech, impaired mobility, an odor of alcohol, or an incident that may have been caused by substance abuse.
  3. If the employee refuses the drug test, that is likely grounds for immediate dismissal. If they agree, make sure the employee is given a drug and alcohol test immediately. Do not allow the employee to drive themselves at any point, not to get the drug test and not to drive home. Have a supervisor drive them to the drug test site and wait for the results. If the results are positive for drugs and/or alcohol, drive them home. It is not a good idea to have a conversation with the employee about their employment at that time. Do not engage in any conversation regarding their future with the company while they are under the influence. They will likely not be able to recall the conversation, they may get agitated and cause more disruption or even harm. In any event, this employee is not in the condition you want them to be in while having those conversations. Set a time for the next day for them to come to your office to discuss their future with the company. That gives you time to plan the next step.
  4. What does your policy state? Some policies have a no tolerance regarding drugs and alcohol on the job. If that is your policy, the employee should be terminated immediately. If your company has a policy that allows for rehabilitation and if you have an Employment Assistance Program this is a great resource for you as a manager, employer or HR. Contact them and get their guidance on how best to handle the situation. Take the time while the employee goes home for the day to determine your next step and the message you will communicate at the meeting the next day. Most of all, follow your policy and treat all similar situations the same.
  5. Communicate the plan to the employee’s manager and/or supervisor so that you can plan for their absence if necessary. Do not communicate to other employees about the situation. Talking to an employee’s peer about another employee’s performance, disciplinary action or reason for dismissal is very unprofessional. It leaves employees uneasy and will lose any trust they have in you.
  6. Document, Document, Document. Make sure you document the behavior as well as the events that took place. The documentation may come in handy if the employee complains how they were treated or of others felt unsafe and complain. And if necessary, the documentation will come in handy if the employee files a law suit.
Ever made a bad hiring decision?

Ever made a bad hiring decision?

Most of us have made the wrong hiring decision. Maybe we were up against a wall and needed someone right away. Maybe we ignored signs that they were not the right fit. Or maybe we thought it would all work out, he/she is a really nice person and needs a job. You are not alone in making these mistakes. According to a survey done by Harris Poll, here’s what employers said when asked about hiring the wrong person:

35% thought that while the candidate didn’t have all the needed skills, thought they could learn quickly.

33% found out the candidate lied about his or her qualifications.

32% took a chance on a nice person.

30% were pressured to fill the role quickly.

29% had a hard time finding qualified candidates.

29% focused on skills and not attitude.

25% ignored warning signs.

10% lacked adequate tools to find the right person.

10% didn’t do a complete background check.

7% said they didn’t work closely enough with HR.


While it is nice to know we have company in making bad hiring decisions. The bad news is that the average cost of making those bad hires is around $15,000. That is a lot of money, by any company standards.


Here’s a few tips on making better hiring decisions.


  1. Have multiple people interview the candidate. I suggest the interviews be separate, no ganging up on the candidate. Get different perspectives.
  2. Spend more time with the candidate, get them to talk in the interview. The candidate should do 70% of the talking. Are you talking too much in the interview?
  3. Post the job on Indeed, Career Builder or another job sit. Don’t just hire someone’s friend because they need a job. And please don’t just wait until someone walks in to fill the job. Be proactive!
  4. Spend some time on exactly what you think the candidate should know, what skills they need and other behaviors that will have them be successful in the job.
  5. When you interview the candidates, ask them specifically to talk to you about how they have used those skills in past jobs. Or better still have them demonstrate those skills so that you can make sure you have more than just their word on whether or not they possess the right skills.
  6. Finally, run a background check and check references of previous employers.



Chances are good that you are going to hire a new employee in 2018. Lots of employees are moving around to new jobs this year and new jobs are being created. Good Luck!

A New Take on New Year’s Resolutions

A New Take on New Year’s Resolutions

If you haven’t already, it is now time to set some goals for 2018. When I look at my goals, they are mostly based on habits that I want to change or begin. If they are not specific habits, the success of the goals hinges on my habits. For example, if I want to lose 20 pounds, I will need to change my diet and exercise routine; That requires habit changes. If I want to look for a new job in 2018, I will need to begin the habit of spending more time networking, or carving out some time during the week to do the research and apply for jobs online. So you get the drift, the goals or resolutions, as we refer them at this time of the year, either are new habits or changed behaviors or they require new habits to support the desired outcome. It is true that it takes 21 days, give or take, to develop a new habit. If we round that number up to 30 days, just to give ourselves some wiggle room, that means that we could – if we only changed one habit per month – effectively change 12 habits in 2018!. Wow, that is really
amazing. That is life changing. According to the book, Switch, changing habits is like building a muscle. The more you do it, the more muscle memory you have and the easier it gets. So here is the challenge, write down your goals for 2018. Remember the SMART goals rule, be, Specific, Measurable, Actionable (make sure you are in control of the outcome), Realistic (okay, at least 50% realistic) and Timed. Now take a step back and really look at your goals. What habits do you need to create or change in order to make those happen? Perhaps you will phase in different habits every 30 days in order to meet your goal. For example, maybe for the first 30 days you skip deserts on weekdays. The second 30 days, you ramp up your exercise. The next 30 days you change to whole foods eating plans. Whatever it is that gets you to your ultimate goal.
What you can accomplish by changing one habit at a time is remarkable! Good luck! Have a wonderful, healthy, successful 2018.

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