Strayer University Difficult Conversations Discussion
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Please respond to the two discussion responses below using in-text citation and using a reference list. Keep each response separate. I have included the initial discussion question for you. Please be in-depth with the responses.
Initial Discussion Question
Scenario: The performance of your top employee has recently slipped. You had a conversation with the employee to address it. The employee improved for a period of time, but slipped again. Now, your boss has noticed, which questions your leadership. You do not want to terminate this employee because you know the value of this person and their work, and you trust and respect this employee. However, you are starting to look bad.
It is time to take action, so you schedule a meeting with the employee.
Part One: Considering the course materials for this week, discuss your strategy for the meeting, including:
Part Two: Write a brief dialogue recording the conversation between you and this employee that demonstrates your use of the strategies outlined above. Include at least 4 interchanges between you and them.
Pulling a subordinate aside can sometimes be an intimidating task for some, especially if he/she is one of your top performers. Those motivated self-starters of your team need minimal supervision. I believe it has to be remembered though, that they are human and no one can run at 110% all day, every day. If it is not common to see this individual, it’s important to get them into a comfortable, private setting. Establish rapport and be clear and concise about why you are having a one-on-one with them. Woods stated, “The individual tends to ramble, unable to focus on the main point of the conversation.” (1). It is vital to get to the point and ensure it is clearly understood by the receiving party. Allow them to ask questions or repeat in their own words what was just conveyed to them. Once they are aware of their performance, empathy should be injected deeper into this conversation. This is because if it is not normal behavior, it is possible there may be something occurring in their personal life that is affecting them.
I’ve had situations where my top performers had fallen below standard and because I had built a trusting relationship with them, they were comfortable opening up to me as to why their work quality was suffering. One specific example was one of my Airmen who was an award winner, top performer, live and bubbly individual who started showing up to work late, not being present at work meetings, looking exhausted, and just not himself. After pulling him to the side in a private setting, he divulged his wife was in the process of divorcing him and the result was his sleepless nights and now stressful life of a broken household with two small children. I always say, be kind because you never know what someone is going through or what inside battles they are fighting. The majority of the time, they just need to be heard. Week 2 Lecture Notes stated, “Properly listening to someone requires more than the mere acknowledgment and it takes practice. You should absorb what they say, while gleaning new information and finding ways to relate to them.” (2) While it is important to relate to them, removing your emotions from the situation is important so that any advice given is given from a subjective standpoint instead of an emotional one. While I agree, that being able to relate in some form or manner can humanize the experience and cause your subordinate to gain deeper trust in you, the point of the conversation is to not only guide them back to the right path but most importantly receive the help they need to do so.
Techniques that I will employ to build effective relationships are to listen more and talk less. Ross stated, “Presence can be somewhat passive, but empathy requires you to actively listen and hear what is going on for someone else.” I’ve learned that true leadership involves listening and truly knowing your people. It will be easier to tell when they have off days and can get ahead of situations like the example I stated earlier. It’s easier to lead when you can look at a person and know that they aren’t themselves and sometimes it’s a simple venting session that can steer them back on the right track. Being in the military is a 24/7 job, so it is important my subordinate’s quality of life is taken into account. A person cannot be fully present at work to complete their mission if their mind is stressed elsewhere. Johnson stated, “Show that you are an approachable and pleasant person to interact with by smiling honestly and with your whole face, not just your mouth.” (4)
Me: Hey John, how are you doing today? (Uses inviting warm (not creepy) smile). How has your family been doing? How’s work today? I’d like to talk to you for a bit if you wouldn’t mind following me to my office.
John/Employee: Hey boss. I’m okay today. I found out my grandma is sick and has been battling it for a while now. There is a possibility to fly home before things get really bad or to say my last goodbyes. I feel like I haven’t been able to focus at work because of it. I’m really close to her and I’ve been losing sleep and my appetite.
Me: John, I’m really sorry to hear about your grandmother. I pulled you aside because it’s been noticed that the quality of your work has been suffering lately. I had talked to you about it previously and you were doing okay for a little and then reverted back. You are usually a top performer so I can see why you are struggling. I can understand that losing a family member can be devastating and I will ensure that you get the time off you need to get through this. There is no point in being here if you aren’t present and your mental health is the I’d like to let you know that I am here for you if you need to talk and I ask that you, please come to me if you experiencing a life stressor that will not only cause your work to suffer but also that is affecting your mental health. We have resources that can assist you. Is there anything else going on that I need to be aware of to better help you? What are your plans to get home?
John: Thank you for being supportive. I plan on getting with my family to find the best time to fly out and I will let you know the details. I have nothing else significantly affecting my life but my grandmother’s deteriorating health has been weighing on me so it’s nice to be seen and heard. I will ensure to keep you in the loop of anything in the future. Thank you for being there.
This week‘s discussion prompt and related hypothetical scenario affords us multiple opportunities for expressing our acquired knowledge of leadership, interpersonal relations, the value of empathy, and applying constructive, motivating pressure. We are also challenged to demonstrate the specifics of this week’s lessons by incorporating them into our responses. In my opinion, this is no small task, but as JWMI students, we should be ready.
Empathy is a vital component of leadership, so much so that to be without it diminishes one’s ability to properly function as the decision-making motivator of an organizational body or team. Serving as the elemental fabric which connects both personal and professional relationships, empathy and social skills are social intelligence, which comprises the interpersonal portion of emotional intelligence (Goleman, 1). Placing this in motion, manifesting empathy looks like listening more and talking less, the intentional practice of mindfulness and focus upon others, and active curiosity (Ross, 2). Empathy can be learned and perfected over time, increasing one’s leadership skills.
Jack Welch’s 4th Rule for Leadership guides us to establish trusting relationships with others by being candid, transparent, keeping promises, and giving full credit to others for their accomplishments (Welch, 3). Trusting, candid relationships serve as a platform for spring boarding action towards a mission. Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia, testifies that empathy has allowed him to build a culture of trust which supersedes the politics and fears which run rampant within a business environment and ushers in speed, which delivers results (JWI505, 4). These strategies directly relate to the manner in which we successfully conduct integral interpersonal discussions, most importantly, difficult conversations.
Our discussion prompt asks us to discuss our strategy for a meeting with a valuable employee who has exhibited a patterned instability and decline in their performance at work. In a conversation to address their behavior, we must address the following points:
I’ve previously addressed the value of candor in forging trusting relationships, the likes of which every leader should endeavor to build. Empathy greases the works into a team member or employee’s favor, paving the way for taking the edge off of tense discussions. If a leader has competently established a healthy relationship with the team member in question using these foundational elements, then subtracting personal emotion from a conversation will not feel like a cold, robotic encounter from the employee’s perspective. Regarding the hypothetical scenario, the leader should:
A brief dialogue recording the conversation between myself, the leader, and my employee who has exhibited patterned instability and a decline in their work performance
Me: Hi, Jim. I wanted to take a few minutes of your time to reflect upon and redirect your priorities here at ACME Inc. It’s been a while since we’ve had a candid, informal review, and there are a few issues at hand which compel me to sit down with you.
Jim: Hi, Catherine. Ok. Are we going to talk now?
Me: Now’s a good time as any. I certainly don’t want the dam to break with accumulation; I know I’m being somewhat nebulous, but first, I wanted to ask how you’re doing.
Me: Well, great.
Me: *chuckling* Look, I don’t want to have a deer-in-the-headlights conversation with you. I don’t want to talk at you, I want to talk to you. I have you on my team because I’ve seen what you can do, and, frankly, I’ve never seen anyone add the flair and personality to their work the way you do. My bosses, however, don’t see it that way. They afford me the autonomy to occupy a position on my team with anyone I choose, as long as that employee remains productive according to their standards. So really, now, it’s just you and me chatting. Tell me, what’s going on at home?
Jim: My son is growing up too soon! He’s in the third grade already and keeps me busy as his chauffeur to karate and basketball practice. Sandy has her hands full with the baby and claims to want to lose the baby weight, but she’s breastfeeding, so she says she’s not hungry during the day but always sends me out for a late-night sandwich or Chinese food because she’s hungry but doesn’t want to pay $15 extra for DoorDash. And I’m really trying to keep my MBA on track, so instead of painting the garage on my days off, I’m glued to the computer; I’d really rather be going to the gym for a quality workout instead of doing either of those things, but somehow, at the end of the day, I’m content. I guess this is where my ADD comes in handy because I’m doing a little bit of everything on the daily.
Me: I would agree, except that I need to be sure that the quality of your work doesn’t suffer from it. Did you know that people with ADD tend to be more creative and humorous?
Me: Yes, really. And a plethora of other endearing things. Let me tell you what I need from you; I need you to log the inventory after every shift without error.
Jim: That’s always been my duty, and I’m sorry if I haven’t been diligent in doing it every day.
Me: So you see what I’m referring to? That’s a relief; it saves me from having to retrain you to do your job. I get the feeling that you know most of what I need to say to you about your recent job performance, because I know that you know how to do your job. Jim, can I ask you a question?
Jim: Uh, yeah. Yes.
Me: Do you think that your full plate, so to speak, is preventing you from doing your job to your best ability? Do you think you’re spread too thin? I ask this because I want you to help me reach a mutually beneficial solution.
Jim: Well, in all honesty, I am spread thin, but the baby is sleeping through the night now, and I’ve decided to take the next semester off so that life won’t be as intense for a while.
Me: Great. Here’s what I’m thinking, I can either write down a list of necessary processes which you’ll complete by the end of every shift and text me when they’re done – I’ll handle the accountability texts with discretion, because I’m not aiming to micromanage you in front of other team members – or you can consider reducing your workload to 30 hours per week. I’ll hire a part-time entry-level employee or two and pay them roughly half of your hourly wage. I want you to take some time to consider these options, and I want you to feel that you have a say in how things are changing at ACME Inc. I want you to sleep on it, so I’ll be checking in with you tomorrow morning so that you can voice your decision. Does that sound fair?
Jim: I think so. I definitely have a lot of thinking to do.
Me: Yes, think about it, and if you have any questions in the morning, we’ll discuss those details. For now, I want to go home with the task of steering your role within this company in the right direction. There’s nothing else that I need to know for now. Is there anything you’d like to add?
Jim: No, Catherine, I’m good.
Me: Great. Say “hi” to Sandy and the kids for me. Goodnight.
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