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How to Handle Employee “Excuses”

How to Handle Employee “Excuses”

“There was bad traffic.”
“I didn’t understand what to do.”
“I didn’t have time to finish so I decided to wait until tomorrow.”
“I had to go to the doctor.”

If you’re a business owner or manager, I’m sure you’ve heard one of or all of these excuses-and quite possibly can add some more imaginative ones, too!

Look, sometimes things happen that prevent work from getting done. I know there are completely understandable, legitimate excuses to be made, especially when an unpredictable situations or unavoidable circumstances arise. Road closures can snarl traffic for miles, for example, and medical emergencies require immediate attention and action. There are other situations that can never be anticipated, despite the frustration of dealing with them.

But what about the less forgivable excuses that simply cannot stand? What do you do then? Here are some tips on how to effectively handle employee excuses:

Stop Saying “It’s Okay” When You Don’t Really Mean It

Many Business Owners and Managers find it difficult to provide corrective feedback when an employee has stated a problem. It may be that there is a concern with appearing unsympathetic, or a worry that the employee will become negative about their work (a.k.a “being held hostage by an employee”), but by saying “It’s okay,” you are communicating acceptance of the situation. Remember that sometimes it’s not okay, and that by starting your dialogue with that phrase you are giving mixed signals.

Express Your Disappointment

To say “I’m disappointed because…,” is a powerful statement. It’s direct, it doesn’t open the door to further explanations, and it focuses the employee’s attention on how their behavior affected you. It leaves no room for building a more elaborate excuse about what happened, because it leads to a much more important part of the discussion: what will they do in the future so that the situation doesn’t happen again.

Probe the Employee for What They Could Have Done Differently

Most employees can determine on their own how they might have handled the situation differently. This self-correction enables them to comply with the solution more willingly, and that will lead to a more permanent and solid outcome.

Provide Your Input on What They Could Have Done Differently

There will be many situations in which the employee just doesn’t have a clue as to what or how they could have acted differently. It may be because they are new to the workforce, or that the situation was an unfamiliar one, or perhaps they simply lack the requisite problem-solving skills. When this occurs you must explain what are the correct actions, set the expectations for the next time, and leave no room for further discussion. At this point you will also want to mention the repercussions that will occur should the situation happen again.

Obtain Their Agreement and End the Conversation on a Positive Note

It’s important that the employee agree to the solution that has been laid out and that they also understand the ramifications should they not proceed accordingly. Accountability is key. And because every employee also has his or her good qualities you should always end the conversation on a positive and enthusiastic note!

Taken from the September 2016 Unique Business Solutions Newsletter


September 10, 2016