5 Tips For Discussing Bad Behavior With A Top Performer

| josh@ihatelongemails.com |

Have you listened to a lame excuse for unethical behavior or poor judgment from one of your top performers and wondered, “Am I really hearing what I’m hearing?” You know in your gut that you have to talk with the person, but what do you say and how do you say it?

The Detroit Lions’ Head Coach Jim Schwartz is facing this problem right now. He had to have cringed, as I did, after seeing this blatant, unsportsmanlike action in yesterday’s Lions’ game from star defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh:

I couldn’t believe the excuse that followed in the post-game interview:


If you’re not sure how to move forward with a difficult conversation about addressing and correcting bad behavior, here are five strategies to lead you from start to finish:

1. Meet With The Person Immediately

The purpose of this meeting is to recognize the person’s bad behavior, the resulting problems, the impact of those problems, and the creation of solutions.

Make up your mind that you and the individual have to talk as soon as possible. Whether you call a “drop everything and let’s talk now” meeting, or schedule a conference within an hour to give you and the other person time to cool down, you will need to address this as a top priority.

The more time that passes between the event and the meeting, the more you will hear people talking about what happened and questions about the strength of the organization’s leaders.

2. Write Down Your Points Before Going Into The Meeting

Take at least fifteen minutes to organize your thoughts and write them down on a note card. I suggest writing your notes by hand as opposed to typing them on your laptop or phone. Technology becomes an obstacle to making a personal connection which you must have in this situation.

You will keep the conversation on track by having notes in front of you instead of just winging it because you can see what you want to say. The pressure, stress, and emotions of the meeting could distract you and the other person. Having written notes gives you the advantage you need to remain in charge.

3. Lead The Conversation

The top performer probably will want to vent or possibly not want to talk at all. You have to be ready for either extreme and let the person know that you two will have a conversation, not a monologue.

Leading the conversation means that you set the guidelines for the topics and time. Be prepared for spoken and non-verbal cues from the other person wanting to quit the conversation. When you enter the meeting knowing that you will face these obstacles, you will not be surprised by them and remain in control.

4. Be Aware of Body Language and Tone of Voice

Remember that the other person will take cues from you, especially your body language. If you come across with slumped shoulders or a painful look on your face, the conversation will likely go down in flames. However, you will show confidence with a strong, straight posture and solid eye contact.

Watch your tone of voice to make sure you don’t sound patronizing or like a dictator. At the same time, you need to use a confident, sure tone to express your ideas and encourage the other person’s input.

5. Get The Person’s Buy-In, Without Buying Their Position

The most important point is that you don’t buy what the other person is selling. Remember that you called this meeting because the person is not thinking clearly and is going down a path of poor judgment.

You need this meeting to end with an agreement on action steps that the other person will take, and how you will support them. Don’t let yourself become the worker and offer to do X, Y, and Z to help the person. If the individual sees you doing the work, there’s no incentive for them to do anything.

Good luck and let me know how these strategies work for you.