What do you do about employees you just can’t approach about behavior or performance problems?

You know the types: people who either erupt into an argument or say, “Yeah, whatever” if you try to engage them. When that happens, you need to stick up for yourself -– without going nuclear.

The bad actor
Here’s an example: An employee is unhelpful at a meeting, making snide remarks, looking impatiently like she wants to leave and refusing to participate productively.

Afterward, when the manager asks what’s going on, she says, “I hate these stupid meetings. We all just sit around and nothing ever gets solved.”

Sometimes a manager’s “fight or flight” instinct will kick in at this point, making you act either too passively or too aggressively. Result: The worker doesn’t take you seriously, or an argument erupts.

Getting it just right
Here’s how three responses – two off-target, one just right – might sound:

  • Passive: “Well, maybe we can just send you the meeting minutes.”
  • Aggressive: “If you participated more, you’d get more out of them.”
  • Assertive: “You seem pretty fed up, but I need your input at the meetings. What would you do to make the meetings more effective?”

Source: Amy Henderson, www.hendersontraining.com

1 Comment

  • Michael Brisciana says:

    Nicely put, Dave.  Perhaps one other “assertive” approach to offer . . . 

    “I appreciate your candor.  I want meetings to be productive, too.  Help me understand what came up in the meeting that wasn’t solved.  Maybe we can work together to resolve that.”

    It acknowledges the problem/issue the employee has raised, and engages them in solving it.  As they say, “Speak (and act) now … or forever hold your peace.”

    Thanks so much,


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