Creating the dynamic team of your dreams requires great communication both of expectations and of issues.  Most employees will respond well to correction.  They will appreciate the feedback, take it to heart and make the required changes.

Some employees, however, have no desire to change and will do whatever it takes to remain stuck where they are.  I will term these employees “problem employees.”  These are the team members who probably do not belong and will ultimately be walked through your discipline process and out the door, if you choose to follow through.

Problem employees will often use tactics to avoid owning their bad behavior.  They are stuck in a rut and have no desire to change.  Too often leaders become paralyzed by the resulting fear of experiencing these tactics.  They adopt a keep quiet approach to the detriment of the team as everyone is robbed of the opportunity for constructive feedback.

That, obviously, is not the best strategy.  Instead, let’s arm you with some tools to bust the 4 D’s of discipline avoidance so that you can move forward with the communication that must happen for your team to excel.

      #1.  Deflection:  an employee utilizing this tactic will bring up everything under the sun to highjack the meeting.  Their goal is to change the topic and move the conversation away from them.  You’ll hear about all the wrong doings of your management team, fellow employees and systems.  You may hear about issues going on in their lives.  Do not fall prey. 

      Following them down the rabbit trails will just leave both of you confused.  You will run out of time before you get to the topic you intended.  They will leave feeling like, “phew, bought myself more time.”  And the same behavior will continue.

      Stick to your agenda no matter what.  They may get more and more creative as the meeting progresses.  Stick to your guns.  Your number one goal is to maintain control of the meeting and stick to the topic.  If they do happen upon an issue that deserves further investigation jot it down as an action item to tackle after the meeting and move on.

      Use phrases like these:

      •  “We are not here to discuss that right now.  We are here to talk about you.”
      • “That is not your concern.  I need you to focus on your own issues and the changes you must make to be successful.”
      • “I understand that that must be difficult for you.  I encourage you to speak to a professional about that.  In the mean time, let’s focus on your work here.”

      #2.  Denial:  Some employees will vehemently deny responsibility when the hard evidence is sitting right in front of them.  It does not matter.  You may not ever convince them or get them to own up.  And, unfortunately, that is the first step required for them to make real change.  Most who adopt this avoidance technique will not be successful.  Use phrases like these:

      • “I am concerned that you are not able to take responsibility.  If you are unwilling to acknowledge you were in error I feel that you will not make the changes required to be successful.”
      • “I am not here to debate what happened.  I am here to talk about next steps with you based on what did happen.”
      • “You will have an opportunity to speak briefly and add your comments to the form at the end.  For now I need you to listen to me.”

      #3.  Defensiveness:  employees will vary in the degree to which they will defend themselves and at times can become quite angry.  The fear of this response is one that stops many of my clients.  However, you can not relinquish control by letting fear stop you.  In this instance you must maintain control of the meeting.  Do not allow them to escalate.  Use phrases like: 

      • “I need you to use a softer tone.”
      • “Please watch your language.”
      • “You must decrease the volume of your voice.”
      • “I need you to calm down and listen.”
      • “This is not appropriate behavior.” 

      Speak at a normal pace and use soft tones.  Try not to match their volume.  This can help bring them back down.  Continue to be encouraging.  Let them know that you are hoping that they will make the right choice and will be successful.

      •  “I want you to be successful.  I am hoping that you hear me today and make the right choices going forward.”
      • “I need you to stop and listen because I really want you to get this one now.”
      • “Your success begins with you listening to me and actually hearing what I am saying to you.”

      #4.  De-Friending:  Yes, sometimes the people who report to you won’t like you.  They must treat you with respect.  They must do their jobs but they don’t have to like or agree with everything you do and that has to be okay with you.  Period.  Please don’t let the fear of their disapproval cause you to give away power to your team.

      If an employee begins hurling threats that remind you of high school combat them with phrases like these:

      •  “I am sorry to hear that.  I will continue to respect you and really do hope that you do what is necessary to be successful.”
      • “This is not personal.  It is about the job.  I really hope that you hear what I say today and make the right choices.”

I hope that these tools help you get into action with your problem employees.  You owe it to the rest of your team, yourself and your business to hold everyone on your team accountable to standards of excellence.