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How Can One Employee Confront Another One on Behavior?

Question

I have an employee who is always talking about her peers negatively and the staff is exhausted by it. They are afraid to confront her, fearing that she will become even more difficult to work with. What is the appropriate way to approach this customer service issue?

Answer

This is not a customer service issue. It is a leadership issue. The coworker sounds as if she is a low performer. It is the leader’s role to meet with her and discuss her performance. In fact, employees may be reluctant to confront a coworker because they fear the leader won’t support them or action will not be taken. We recommend that leaders identify their high, middle, and low performers and confirm their judgments with the Senior Team. Then the leader can meet with individuals in each group.

High performers need to be re-recruited. Middle performers need to be supported and coached until they become high performers. We advise what we call a DESK technique with low performers:

D – Describe their current performance.

E – Evaluate their performance and share that you are disappointed with it.

S – Show the employees what is expected of them.

K – Know (share) the consequences of not improving performance. Follow-through is key to success.

Low performers need to know their behavior will not be allowed to undermine the team or the mission. This technique can work with any disruptive behavior and will be even more supported if the behavior is clearly not part of the standards of behavior.