A 6-Step New Manager Guide for Difficult Situations


Too many a new manager has not yet learned how to confront difficult situations effectively.

We have learned from thousands of new manager training program participants that most new managers either prefer to avoid an uncomfortable conversation and keep quiet or they mishandle the situation by coming on too strong and alienating their team member.

Whether neglect or insensitivity is the cause, inexperienced or untrained new managers may end up facing employee problems that grow almost too big to handle. We have seen first-hand how costly this can be.

When a new manager mishandles uncomfortable conversations with a team member about performance, attitude or relationships, there are almost always consequences. There can be resentment, gossip, and lack of engagement and productivity. New managers need to learn how to handle timely conversations with their employees in order for the team to perform at its peak.

For those of you, new or “old” managers, who need some help in this area of performance management, try following these six steps:

  1. Reinforce your intent
    Remember that the goal of the conversation is to help your team member be successful. Not only do you have to be genuine about this but you also need to express it to your employee through your actions, words and body language.
  2. Be clear and specific
    General comments too often miss the mark and confuse difficult situations. Let’s say your team member has been coming in late all week and others are beginning to resent how much this holds up their productivity. You need to be able to cite each day they were late, and the specific impact it is having on you, the team and the late employee.
  3. Acknowledge your role
    Perhaps you were not clear about how important it is for the team to assemble each morning to review what needs to be accomplished for the day. Always own what you contribute to the situation and have a clear and agreed-upon plan to do what you can to be a better leader.
  4. Be clear about the goal
    The team needs to meet and work together to be as efficient as possible day by day. As a new manager, you will know a goal is specific when you both perceive it to be understood, accurate, fair, timely, possible, and measurable.
  5. Ask for the employee’s perspective
    Is there a legitimate reason for their tardiness? If so, see what solutions are possible. If not, be clear that tardiness on a regular basis cannot be tolerated and how you specifically expect things to change and when.
  6. Reiterate the overall goal and plan a follow-up session
    As a new manager, your goal is to keep your team working cohesively and effectively together and to have each member contribute their best. Be sure there are no further questions and then plan a time to review the situation in the next few days and monitor progress over the next 90-days.

The best new managers are straightforward and objective in their approach. Listen carefully to understand what’s going on under the surface. Does the employee not care? Is there a family situation that prevents timely arrival at the office? Is this temporary or do you need a long-term fix?

Be creative as you try to solve the problem together. The reason for tardiness could be anything from not allowing enough time to commute to feeling unable to work up to the team’s standards. But before you can find a solution, you need to understand the problem. You never will unless you have that “difficult” but necessary conversation with the main player.

To learn more, download Effective Communication Skills Best Practices: The Essential Ingredient In Any New Manager Interaction

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