Archives For Difficult Conversations

The intervention process is a formal “documented process” which is used to assist an employee in resolving performance or behavioral problems. The process is designed to identify problems, develop solutions, and establish a follow-up process which reinforces appropriate performance/behavior, or provides for corrective action should the employee fail to respond.

Phase-1 Intervention

When you are preparing to meet with an employee, you must decide which approach is most appropriate. Your choice of initial words and actions should be predicated not only on your desired outcome(s), but also on the type of employee you are working with.

In counseling, flexibility is absolutely necessary.  If one approach is not working, don’t hesitate to try another to gain the desired results.  The following techniques are provided to assist you in structuring your next performance counseling interview:


Initially review the previous conversation(s) that you have had with the employee, and/or events that have happened. State how you feel about the employee’s actions (I’m upset, I’m angry), and discuss how they have impacted on your unit’s (section, department, or team) productivity. Finally, ask the employee “Now, what are you going to do to correct these problems!”


This approach is non-threatening and leaves the door open for the employee to talk about what they think the real problem is. A word of caution is in order, it may be necessary to get the employee back on track if they wander too far away from the real problem. Begin the interview with a broad based question such as “How have things been going for you in the past (week, month, quarter etc.).” Don’t mention the specific problem you want to talk about until the employee brings it up. The employee knows this is not a social visit and will begin to focus in on the specific issue(s) you want to talk to them about. When they get to the real issue, then you can begin using the counseling skills that we are going to talk about.


This interview begins by saying “I believe we have a problem, and I want to talk to you about it before it gets out of hand.” “Quite honestly, I think that it’s bothering you too.” “Let’s talk about it, and find some solutions.”  “Ok?”


This approach puts the employee in your shoes and asks them “What would you do?” It begins by saying,“John, if you had an employee who (state the problem) what would you do?” Listen to their response, if it’s on track with your thinking then ask the employee, “How can we solve this problem before we have to take the drastic action you suggested?”

This is an excerpt from The Three C’s of Leadership (Coaching, Counseling, and Confrontation), a Mastering Leadership Skills seminar.