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10 Tips for Conducting Difficult Meetings with Employees

Thrings talk us through how to prepare for challenging conversations with staff and how to manage them. Get it wrong and the employee may go absent and work less effectively, get it right and you can improve levels of performance, attendance and employee engagement.

Investigate First

Before you carry out any disciplinary or performance related hearings ensure adequate investigation has been carried out.
Put it in Writing
Explain to the employee in a letter (at least two days before the hearing) the matters to be discussed; provide them with written details and evidence of the conduct/performance situation.
Follow Procedure
Policies and procedures should be read and followed.
Offer Representation
Representatives, such as a work colleague or Trade Union Representative, should be offered to the employee and accommodated if requested. If the meeting is likely to be very difficult for the employee, especially if they are suffering from stress, you may consider requests to bring someone who is not a colleague or Trade Union Representative, such as a close family member or friend, as this could be deemed a reasonable adjustment. 
Take Notes
Enlist the services of another Manager to make meticulous notes of the interview. This will help you to prove what was said at any Employment Tribunal, especially if you are able to agree the contents of the notes with your Employee and get them to sign the same.
Postpone if Necessary
Postpone the hearing if unforeseen circumstances mean it would be difficult for the employee or their representative to attend. However, it may be worth outlining that persistent failures to attend may lead to you hearing the case in their absence. 
Adjourn if Necessary
Adjournments can be used to allow a distressed or angry Employee time to compose themselves. If you do this, make sure that it is recorded in the notes so that they do not appear disjointed and are an accurate portrayal of the meeting.
To Record or Not?
Recording the meeting could be a double-edged sword, as it could be used to help or hinder you. If you do choose to record the hearing, do not do it covertly and ensure you have the employee’s permission to do so beforehand. Likewise, the employee does not have the right to record the meeting, so requests to do this should be considered carefully.
Give them a Chance
Employees should be given a chance to put forward their arguments. Do not interrupt or contradict them. Note their points and answer any questions sympathetically, clearly and unemotionally. Take particular note of mitigating circumstances and be prepared to take them into account when making your decision. 
No Distractions
Distractions can be an obvious problem. Leave strict instructions that you will not be able to answer the telephone during the interview and, if possible, conduct the interview in a room with no telephone and turn mobiles off or on silent.


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