How to Have a Performance Conversation with Unmotivated EmployeesNo leader or manager wants to discuss poor performance with an employee. These conversations are usually awkward and uncomfortable for everyone involved.

But, says Vivian Giang, a contributor to Open Forum, you owe it to the success of your business to serve as a “catalyst for change,” and have a performance conversation to motivate and inspire your workforce.

Giang offers “four critical mindsets,” based on suggestions offered by Marnie Green, principal consultant at Management Education Group, and author of "Painless Performance Conversations."

Start a Performance Conversation with Behavior

Plan to take a methodical approach with your employee. Describe specific performance issues you’d like to discuss, and then explain the effect of their actions on the overall culture and productivity of the business.

Green, suggests instead of talking about what you want the employee to stop doing, you focus on expectations. “Whatever it is you expect, verbalize this clearly and never let your own attitude toward the employee get in the way of professional communication.”

Make No Judgments

Too often, leaders let their emotions and judgments about an individual cloud a performance conversation. This leads to a generalized statement such as, “I don’t think you care,” which is both vague and accusatory, and forces the employee immediately on the defensive. No productive results will emerge from such a charged exchange.

You have to determine beforehand “whether the issue you have with your employee is a pet peeve or something that actually affects the work environment.”

Ask Questions That Invite Solutions

Most underperforming employees are aware of their situation, but are reluctant to acknowledge it, which is why it’s best to encourage them to devise their own solutions.

After identifying and discussing unwanted behaviors, ask an employee why he thinks this is happening. For example: “What do you think is the difference between last month and this month?” His answer may help lead to a solution everyone can agree on.

Give Employees More Control and Responsibility

You can help pinpoint performance problems, but it doesn’t mean you necessarily have all the answers. Inviting an employee’s input is the first step toward giving them ownership of their actions (and the subsequent effect they have on the organization).

“Employees know themselves best and may come up with the most reasonable innovative solution that benefits everyone,” Giang notes. It’s up to you to give them sufficient control and responsibility to do so.

Performance conversations are most effective when they occur on a regular basis—not as part of an annual review or when things have already gotten out of control. They are a great opportunity to keep expectations and goals clear in everyone’s mind.

What results do you strive for in your performance conversations?

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