How to talk to your problem employee — Script included!

​Do you ever wonder, is this employee relationship salvageable?

Good employee… to problem employee

There comes a time in our career and leadership where one of our employees starts to take a dip. They may have started as a star employee, but something goes wrong.

  • They lose engagement with the team

You get ready to cut them loose!

At this point, you may wonder if it’s just time to cut ties and let them loose. You’ve tried things like having conversations with the employee, reminding, nagging them, maybe even corrective discipline.

And you’d just like to see them gone!

The truth is we all have times in our careers where we ebb and flow between loving our work and not wanting to be there. And what can you do about it?

It’s probably not too late.

In most cases, it’s never too late. But you have to be willing to do some work. And it’s not going to be all easy work.

It starts with you! One of the biggest things you have to do to turn an employee relationship and engagement around is taking a good, hard look at yourself. Yes, you, not them. What lens are you seeing them through? That lens impacts the way you engage with them, and likely sets them off too!

Work through The Inner Guidance Cycle

Recognizing where you get triggered is the first step to turn in that relationship around. You realize you’ve been triggered often when you take time to pause and then ponder. I teach you how to do that inner work in Mastering Confidence.

The thing is, they’ve probably done some things to hurt team members, jeopardize programming, impact clients, or annoy the crap out of you! That triggers you, hence the judgments you have about them.

Do the inner work to maintain your composure.

If you’re going to build that relationship back and create an engaged employee relationship again, it starts with you managing your emotions . Yes, emotional intelligence.

It will do you no good to go into that conversation faking compassion and caring when you feel contempt.

Look at the employee with a new lens. Next, start to look at their strengths, gifts and talents, particularly what you were most impressed, inspired and interested about when they started. Reengage with your employee.

Then have a conversation with them. Do not include this conversation in any correct of action conversation. Simply a conversation to invite a rekindling of what they loved and probably still do about the work.

IMPORTANT: Set the agenda ahead of time so they know exactly what the purpose of the conversation is.

Stay composed, confident and in control of you. If the meeting starts to turn to where they’ve gone wrong, where you’ve gone wrong, or somebody else is gone wrong, literally put your hands up in a time-out signal.

Here’s your script:

Remind them: This conversation is about you and what you love about the work you do. Let’s just stick to that for this conversation. We can talk about those things at another time, and if you’d like, we can schedule that in right now, but for our time today, I just want to talk about you.

  • I want to talk about what you love about your clients and the work you do.

Can you feel the difference?

Can you imagine if someone had done that for you? Maybe someone did. Perhaps that is why you are in the position you are in now because someone cared enough about you to overlook the flaws, to see the good underneath and shine a light on it.

If you want to turn your employee around, try that kind of conversation.

To do this, do the inner work necessary!

Here’s the thing, though, those kinds of impactful, positively emotionally charged, and transformative conversations come when you’ve done the inner work.
When you learn to: That’s when you can have the kinds of conversations that transform employees who have one foot out the door into employees who are loyal, dedicated and engaged!

Do the inner work. It’s worth it!

EXTRA RESOURCES To hear more about reducing nonprofit turnover, listen to To develop your confidence: Do the inner work. When you do, you will rediscover that you do enjoy impactful leadership!

Originally published at



Helping women leaders make it in the nonprofit world. Leadership Development Coach * Best-Selling Author * Wife * Mom * Grandma * Mom to one boxer named Zeus!

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Kathy Archer

Helping women leaders make it in the nonprofit world. Leadership Development Coach * Best-Selling Author * Wife * Mom * Grandma * Mom to one boxer named Zeus!