Monday, August 2, 2010

Case Study: Delivering Bad News Tactfully

Delivering bad news is never easy, especially in a professional environment. When work performance slips, or even worse, when a person needs to be let go, communicating in such situations can be uncomfortable for both parties. Consider the case study and how the employee would have to be approached:

“You are a department manager in a mid-sized company that provides technology support services. You have ten employees who are required to maintain a high level of technical expertise and deliver excellent customer service. One of your employees, who has been with the company for two years, is performing at a substandard level and you have received numerous complaints from customers and coworkers. In addition, this employee has displayed confrontational behavior which has created a hostile environment. You must now meet with this employee and deliver an ultimatum regarding the need for immediate improvement or dismissal.”

First off, the employee might have different reasons for their decrease in work performance. Perhaps they had a death in the family, a bad break-up, or other personal problems to contend with. However, since the employee has been with the company for two years, they might simply feel a sense of entitlement that transcends to laziness. Before speaking with the employee, both states of mind of the employee should be taken into account. Therefore, planning for both variations of conversations would be prudent, (Michaels, 1983, p. 1307).
It is highly likely that the employee’s response would be defensive, given the subjects that are to be broached. The employee might say something like, “I was having a bad day,” or, “I have been an employee here for two years and I have never had complaints before!” To counter the employee’s various excuses, one might answer, “Regardless of any personal problems, they should be left at the door since every single human being has their own emotional dilemmas to contend with on a daily basis. If a death in the family, depression, or other serious issues are at hand, then after a few months of counseling, I will re-evaluate your professional attitude and performance.”

By following a conflict resolution style known as NORMS, a solution can be more smoothly facilitated. NORMS is an acronym that stands for, “ N-Not biased or personal interpretation; O-Observable, situation is seen and touched or experienced by staff; R-Reliable, two or more people agree on what took place; M-Measurable, parameters of conflict can be distinguished and measured; S-Specifics are not subjective, but objective and non-confrontational, (Huber, 2007). Maintaining an objective, calm attitude helps to alleviate unnecessary tension while keeping the path clear for the true problem that needs to be addressed.

Huber, B. (July, 2007). Maintenance and Operations Conflicts. Rock Products, 110 (7),16-16. Retrieved September 8, 2007, from Academic Search Premier Database.

1 comment:

  1. Gina,

    I very much agree that the first thing to do is find out why the employee is behaving in such a disagreeable manner. Something the scenario did not say was how long the behavior had be going on. I wish it had told us a bit more.

    I had never heard of the NORMS style of conflict resolution. It looks like something I would like to look into more when I have some spare time. Thanks for the info about this style.