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Management Skills Training: Correcting Poor Habits

September 18, 2019
By Media Partners

Talk about a tough coaching challenge!

Once upon a time, I had to explain to an employee why it was a bad idea to eat the tops off the free muffins in the break room. Although awkward because it was personal, it was nothing compared to my colleague's challenge: explaining to an employee why his habit of eating raw garlic was making it...difficult...for co-workers to interact with him.

As managers, we sometimes face the need for awkward or difficult conversations.

But is anything as challenging as what the manager faces in this short clip?

Practical Coach 2 Clip provided for PREVIEW ONLY, may not be used for training.
Painful to watch wasn't it? This is obviously an example of how not to go about a difficult conversation. But when we’re faced with a tough coaching challenge, it’s easy to fumble and forget what we know about giving feedback.

Are you facing a coaching challenge that’s got you stumped? (If you’re not now, you may some day!)
Here are six tips that can help.

  1. Keep it private. All constructive feedback should be given in private – but, when you’re addressing something as personal and vulnerable as a hygiene issue, the need for uninterrupted privacy is essential.
  2. Manage your own emotions. Make sure you’re not going in with an attitude! Yes, the situation is uncomfortable, but if you’re obviously frustrated, defensive, or angry about what’s happening, it won't go well. Your employee will focus on your emotions and not hear the message.
  3. Set the tone. “I’m afraid you’re not going to like what I have to say,” may seem blunt, but giving warning ahead of time actually softens the blow of the Thing you have to tell them. 
  4. Be clear and compassionate. It might seem compassionate to explain the situation gently, but if you’re too gentle and therefore unclear, this can lead to confusion and hurt. Plan your words ahead of time so you’re prepared and not fumbling. For instance, the manager in the video could have said, “There are times when the odor of your body is too noticeable.” Acknowledging that it’s not all the time is both direct and gentle.
  5. Anticipate defensiveness and even anger. Imagine yourself in a similar situation, and it’s easy to understand that this will almost certainly feel like a personal attack. Stay calm, stay focused, and don’t get pulled into a debate. In our example, the manager could stay on track by saying something like, “I’m bringing this up because I want you to succeed. Please understand that unless there’s a medical issue we haven’t discussed, I need you to come to work every day with no noticeable body odor.”
  6. End on a positive note. “Thank you for your attention to this. I know you'll be able to work it out."

Finally, consider this: a difficult conversation can feel daunting as you face the need to have it. The reality is that actually having the conversation takes a lot less time than agonizing over it.


For more practical coaching tips we recommend The Practical Coach 2

We also recommend MANAGER MOMENTS: How to Excel in Tricky Situations which provides insights on:

  • curbing employee gossip
  • managing upward
  • managing time thieves
  • dealing with difficult peers
  • knowing when and how to delegate