Managing an employee who is under performing or engaging in misconduct can be a challenge. Fortunately, there is a lot of guidance available to supervisors on the appropriate performance management steps to take in these cases. You may want to consider a different approach, however, if you're seeing negative changes in behavior from an otherwise productive employee. It could be that your employee has experienced a significant emotional event and is struggling with low resilience as a result.
If the poor performance or misconduct is due to low resilience, traditional performance management techniques will rarely lead to behavior change since people with low resilience struggle to control their emotions and behavior. Instead, mentoring these employees and helping them build resilience will often bring about better results.
Here are some tips for managers who want to support an employee with low resilience:
- Create a safe space to talk. Schedule a time to talk when you don't feel hurried and find a place where the employee has privacy and feels safe. While you may have a performance management conversation in the future, keep this discussion focused on resilience. If you do not have a trusting relationship already with the employee, consider finding someone else who can have this conversation and provide support.
- Ask open ended questions and then listen. At the start of the conversation, identify the behavior(s) you've observed and ask your employee what is going on. Continue asking open ended questions and listen. Avoid jumping into problem-solving mode and instead help guide the conversation so the employee reaches his own conclusions. For many employees, just having a supervisor who listens and cares can have a significant, positive impact.
- Let the employee stay in control. Don’t assume you know what the employee needs or that you have the right solutions. Instead, ask good coaching questions that help the employee identify what types of support she needs. While you may want to share examples from your own life about what has worked for you, keep the conversation focused on your employee and her needs.
- Give permission to get help. Some people don't seek support from mental health professionals because they fear they will be perceived as weak. Mentioning that you've sought help in the past (if you have) or that successful professionals often seek mental health support can remove that barrier. This could be just what the employee needs to overcome his fears.
- Don't let low resilience be an excuse. While low resilience may be causing performance or conduct issues, remind the employee that the troubling behavior(s) must stop and explain why. At a later date, if you don’t see improvement, you need to have a performance management discussion about the potential consequences if the behavior continues.
What have you done as a manager to help an employee with low resilience?
This blog does not represent official policies of the Department of State or those of the U.S. Government.