Have the Guts

Tackling Performance Conversations Head On

By “guts” I mean grace under pressure.

—Ernest Hemingway

What workplace conversations give you the willies? Which employee discussions would you rather avoid? With the job of management comes the task of addressing problems or tough issues, even though you'd rather not have to handle them. You procrastinate. You hold out for what you think is the right time. You wait to see if the problem will take care of itself. You avoid the issue. In most cases, the waiting only makes the situation more challenging, which makes the eventual conversation more painful.

You may put off certain conversations because you don't know exactly what you want to say. Often procrastination is caused by an inability to pinpoint the real issue. You know you are not satisfied with the status quo, yet you struggle to articulate the issue without making it emotional.

Regardless of how the prospect of the conversation makes you feel, performance-related conversations are your job as a manager. Every conversation you encounter with employees will shift the organizational culture and influence how employees perform. If you don't address issues that affect productivity and morale, who will? One of your many roles as a manager is to have the so-called tough conversations. Your day-to-day conversations, easy and difficult, guide your work group and help your organization function effectively.

The first step is to embrace this responsibility and stop putting ...

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