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101 Tough Conversations to Have with Employees


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Table of Contents


Preface xi

Acknowledgments xv

Introduction: The Rules of Engagement 1

PART I: Uncomfortable Workplace Situations

1. Common Managerial and Supervisory Discussions 9

Scenario 1: Mediating Disputes Among Subordinates 9

Scenario 2: Appropriate Responses to Requests to Speak ``Off the Record'' 13

Scenario 3: Promoting a Neophyte into a First-Time Supervisory Role 15

Scenario 4: New Supervisor Syndrome 18

Scenario 5: Inheriting an Employee with Disciplinary Problems 20

Scenario 6: Stopping Attitude Problems in Their Tracks 23

Scenario 7: Advice Before a Holiday Party or an Offsite Event 24

2. Individual Appearance and Uncomfortable Workplace Dilemmas 28

Scenario 8: Bad Hair Days 29

Scenario 9: Inappropriate Dress 32

Scenario 10: Body Piercing and Body Art 33

Scenario 11: Tattoos 34

Scenario 12: Halitosis (Bad Breath) 36

Scenario 13: Body Odor from Lack of Cleanliness 37

Scenario 14: Body Odor from Suspected Medical Reason 39

3. Cultural and Religious Differences 42

Scenario 15: Inappropriate Display of Religious Icons 43

Scenario 16: Supervisor Proselytizes to Subordinates 47

Scenario 17: Offensive Food Preparation and Spicy Smells 49

Scenario 18: Euphemisms like ``Honey,'' ``Sweetie,'' and ``Doll'' 50

Scenario 19: Speaking Foreign Languages in the Workplace 53

Scenario 20: Inappropriate Display of Sexually Explicit Material 55

Scenario 21: Lack of Understanding of Multicultural Differences 58

PART II: Poor Work Habits and Job Performance Concerns

4. Performance Transgressions 63

Scenario 22: Lack of Quality, Detail, or Efficiency 64

Scenario 23: Lack of Quantity or Speed 66

Scenario 24: Substandard Customer Satisfaction 69

Scenario 25: Lack of Sales Production 71

Scenario 26: Failure to Learn New Material During Training 73

Scenario 27: Acts Resulting in a Loss to the Employer 76

Scenario 28: Failure to Follow Through, or ``Dropping the Ball'' 78

5. Policy and Procedure Violations 81

Scenario 29: Failure to Adhere to Safety Rules 82

Scenario 30: Excessive Personal Telephone Calls 84

Scenario 31: Excessive Time Spent on the Internet 86

Scenario 32: Unauthorized Use of Company Equipment and Facilities 89

Scenario 33: Working Unauthorized Overtime 91

Scenario 34: Off-Duty Conduct and Moonlighting 94

6. Excessive Absenteeism and Tardiness 98

Scenario 35: Excessive Unscheduled Absence: ``No Fault'' System 103

Scenario 36: Excessive Unscheduled Absence: ``Excuse-Based'' System 105

Scenario 37: Patterning Excessive, Unscheduled Absence Around Weekends 107

Scenario 38: Rolling Calendar Year Maneuvers 108

Scenario 39: Excessive Tardiness 110

Scenario 40: Exempt Employees Who Choose to Come and Go as They Please 112

7. Lack of Requisite Skills 115

Scenario 41: Inferior Job Knowledge 116

Scenario 42: Lack of Technical Skills 118

Scenario 43: Inadequate Problem-Solving Skills 121

Scenario 44: Substandard Written Expression 123

Scenario 45: Poor Time Management 125

Scenario 46: Lack of Organization and Neatness 128

PART III: Inappropriate Workplace Behavior and Conduct

8. Sexually Offensive Behavior 135

Scenario 47: Foul Language in the Workplace 136

Scenario 48: E-Mail Misuse 139

Scenario 49: Finding Pornography on an Employee's Computer 142

Scenario 50: Bullying 144

Scenario 51: Discriminatory Comments or Racial Epithets 147

Scenario 52: Leering 149

Scenario 53: Sexual Harassment Findings (Reverse Harassment) 152

9. Substandard Communication Skills 156

Scenario 54: Tattletales, Gossipmongers, and Snitches 158

Scenario 55: Whiners and Complainers 161

Scenario 56: Requests for Confidential Conversations from Other Supervisors' Subordinates 163

Scenario 57: Poor Listening Skills 166

Scenario 58: Failure to Communicate Upward 169

Scenario 59: Establishing Effective Staff Meetings 171

10. Personal Style Issues 174

Scenario 60: Suspected Alcoholism or Substance Abuse 174

Scenario 61: Inability to Accept Constructive Criticism 179

Scenario 62: Lack of Sensitivity and Protocol (E-Mail Censuring) 181

Scenario 63: Badgering and Challenging One's Supervisor 183

Scenario 64: Lack of Teamwork and Relationship-Building Skills 186

Scenario 65: Laziness and Lack of Commitment 188

Scenario 66: Blamers and Excuse Makers 191

Scenario 67: Coworker Jealousy and Employees Who Can't Let Go of Their Anger 193

Scenario 68: Supremacists-Arrogance and Superior Attitudes 194

11. Leadership Style Challenges and Career Management Obstacles 197

Scenario 69: Stalled Career Syndrome 198

Scenario 70: Unwillingness to Confront Problems Head-On 201

Scenario 71: Staff Motivation Conversations 204

Scenario 72: Protecting Your Company from Legal Liability (Documentation) 207

Scenario 73: Inability to Provide Constructive Criticism 210

Scenario 74: Handling Group Complaints Wisely 212

Scenario 75: Lack of Diversity Awareness 216

Scenario 76: Lack of Leadership 218

PART IV: Corporate Actions

12. Corporate (Intentional) Actions 225

Scenario 77: Probationary Termination 226

Scenario 78: Administering Disciplinary Warnings 229

Scenario 79: Administering Decision-Making Leaves 231

Scenario 80: Termination for Cause (in Conjunction with Progressive Discipline) 235

Scenario 81: Convincing an Employee to Leave Voluntarily When There Are No Progressive Disciplinary Warnings on File 237

Scenario 82: Negotiating a Separation Package When There Are No Progressive Disciplinary Warnings on File 240

13. Corporate (``No Fault'') Actions 244

Scenario 83: Layoff: Position Elimination-LIFO 245

Scenario 84: Layoff: Position Elimination-Lack of Qualifications 247

Scenario 85: Layoff: Position Elimination-Union Bumping Privileges 250

Scenario 86: Layoff: Position Elimination-Department Closure 254

Scenario 87: Layoff: Position Elimination-Plant Closure (WARN Act) 256

Scenario 88: Follow-Up Discussions with Survivors After Layoffs Occur 258

14. Summary Offenses (Immediate Discharge) 262

Scenario 89: Employee Theft 263

Scenario 90: Selling Proprietary Products on the Internet 265

Scenario 91: Time Card Fraud 268

Scenario 92: Threats of Violence in the Workplace 269

Scenario 93: Sexual Harassment 271

Scenario 94: Falsification of Company Records 274

Scenario 95: Insubordination 276

15. Special Circumstances 280

Scenario 96: Welcoming Back Employees Returning from a Stress Leave of Absence 281

Scenario 97: Dealing with Employees in Crisis: Isolation 285

Scenario 98: Dealing with Employees in Crisis: Suicidal Concerns 288

Scenario 99: Dealing with Employees in Crisis: Homicidal Concerns 290

Scenario 100: Terminating Employees Who Are on Investigatory Leave 292

Scenario 101: Verbally Accepting an Employee's Resignation 295

Index 299

About the Author

Paul Falcone ( is a human resources executive in Los Angeles and has held senior-level positions with Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures, and City of Hope. He has extensive experience in entertainment, healthcare/biotech, and financial services, including in international, nonprofit, and union environments. Paul is the author of numerous bestselling AMACOM and Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) books, and several of his books have been ranked as Amazon #1 bestsellers in their respective disciplines. He is also a long-term contributor to HR Magazine, a top-rated presenter at the SHRM national conference, and an adjunct faculty member in UCLA Extension's School of Business and Management.


..".the advice in this book is invaluable. It deserves a prominent place in the office of anyone who is responsible for managing others." --Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"This book is an excellent reference for managers who are dealing with difficult situations and are faced with having tough conversations with employees. There are many lessons that both novice and expert leaders can learn from the topics discussed, which cover everything from inappropriate dress to employee theft." --AORN Journal

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