South-Western - Management  
How to Coach Tough Workers
Topic Communication
Key Words Coaching, active listening, employee performance, constructive feedback
InfoTrac Reference A143580637
If your textbook came with an InfoTrac passcode, click here to login on InfoTrac.
News Story

Most people want to do a good job. When something happens and someone isn't doing a good job, good leaders need to know how to confront the problem and help the employee to make it better. Being able to approach a problem directly in a positive and controlled manner is an important skill of being a leader. Here are some key actions that can help when there is a performance problem that needs to be addressed:

1. Confront as soon as possible and in private.

2. Describe the behavior or gap in performance. Be careful not to make it personal.

3. Point out the difference between what the person is doing and what they are expected to do. Clarifying expectations may be the single most important thing you can do to help improve the situation.

4. Ask for their view of the situation and acknowledge it. Practice active listening

5. Get the employee's input on a possible solution. If the person can come up with a solution on their own, he or she is more likely to be willing to own it.

6. Express confidence in them to fix the problem.

As for your own approach to the problem; be sure you are focused and fair. Don't bring other's behavior into the conversation. Remember, the goal is to fix the problem, not to fire the person, and approach the conversation accordingly.

At a plant with a mostly seasonal workforce, tardiness and absenteeism was a real problem. The plant's policy allowed a certain number of instances before suspension. And the frequent occurrences were costing the plant time and productivity. Supervisors were coached to speak to workers in a positive way the first time that person was late and to remind the person how much others counted on them to be there and what the effect was when they weren't on time. Next, supervisors thanked the workers a time or two for correcting the problem. Positive reinforcement fixed the problem-what gets rewarded tends to get repeated.

If you struggle with coaching difficult employees, consider asking for help from your boss or human resources manager. These people can offer insights into the situation or even help you to role-play the situation.


What is active listening? Why is it suggested that active listening could be helpful during a coaching session with a difficult employee?


What is the difference between destructive feedback and constructive feedback? How do you know when you have delivered either?


What are the benefits of asking the employee to come up with their own solution to the problem? Why should a manager spend time doing this, when he or she more than likely has an idea about how to solve the problem in their head already?

Source "How to Coach Tough Workers," Feedstuffs, March 13, 2006, v78 i11 p.8(1).
Instructor Discussion Notes Discussion Notes
These notes are restricted to qualified instructors only. Register for free!

Return to the Communication Index

©2005  South-Western.  All Rights Reserved     |