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Help employees put out their own fires

by on
in HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills,Management Training

Issue: Resolving manager/employee disputes yourself can consume you.

Benefit: Coaching employees to communicate more effectively with their managers will make them less dependent on you.

Action: Learn coaching tips through the following scenario.

Picture this: Employee Chris approaches you with the story of how Manager Judy is threatening to fire him if he doesn't im-prove his performance. Until now, Chris tells you, he's received no feedback from Judy, so he had no idea that Judy was concerned.

Sound familiar?

If your typical response would be to gather the full story from Chris' perspective, then talk with Judy for her perspective, stop right there!

That course of action means you've made the choice to fight this fire on Chris' behalf, which could impede his ability to resolve issues in the future. Also, when you approach Judy about the situation, you'll probably damage the trust Judy has in Chris, as well as increase the likelihood that Judy will see you as Chris' advocate. That might raise tension in your relationship with Judy.

So what alternative do you have? Your role will be better served by helping Chris develop his ability to effectively confront his manager and discuss the problem. Chris will remember the advice and will likely use it again in similar, difficult situations.

You may need to explain to Chris that his opportunity to build a solid working relationship with Judy will be much stronger if he can talk with her directly, without the immediate intervention of a third party.

Assure him that, if he needs your help down the line, you can always step in. Encourage him and help him build the necessary skills to solve this issue himself, if possible. Offer to role-play the discussion, and provide honest feedback on how Chris might improve his body language, voice tone and word choice.

The bottom line: If you constantly fight employee/management fires, that soon will be all you do. You'll work harder and harder but will see little change in the situation. If you, instead, work to help employees build better skills so they can solve their own problems, you don't really work yourself out of a job; you simply prove your value and affect the business in a much more valuable way!

Sandy Allgeier is an HR consultant and trainer who spent more than 25 years in the field as a human resources professional. Contact her for advice on how to coach employees to talk to their managers, and vice versa, at (502) 266-0159 or skallgeier@cs.com.

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