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How to tell employees they need a lifeline

The question I get a lot is “How do I tell an employee that he needs a lifeline?”  Keep in mind that it is because he is so valuable that you are even considering the lifeline.  You are, after all, trying to preserve his life there.  For some reason, he has become high-maintenance, is now toxic or otherwise upsetting the team, and is probably no longer profitable.  He probably feels that you, someone else, or the team have become toxic to him.  In my experience, 88% of the time he (or she) wants to change and create a better work environment but is lost on how to do it.

Here are three methods of throwing him the lifeline, in the order of preference with the best and quickest results first. 

  1. Flat out, tell him that he cannot stay employed unless he is willing to change his attitude and behavior and become a team player, and you will assign him a coach if he is willing. 

  2. Mention to him that you are bringing in a coach to build his team building skills.

  3. Tell the whole team that you are “bringing in a coach to build the team, and the coach will be meeting with each team member,” and I will tactfully root out the problem employee and focus on getting him to change.   

In any event, when discussing any matter involving corrective behavior, whether with the employee or with a team, it is best to use the “sandwich” method:  big picture past, critique, big picture future.  This keeps everything in the proper perspective.  Perhaps I will write about this in one of my future blogs.

Does this make sense?  Contact me if you have any questions.




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