How NOT to Talk to a Disengaged Employee

Posted by Kristin Baird

Employee engagement is at the core of any company’s performance. But in healthcare, where the patient experience drives loyalty, trust, and even reimbursement, engagement is paramount to success. A disengaged employee needs coaching right away. 

Spotting and addressing disengagement can make the difference between a team’s success and failure. My colleagues and I regularly coach healthcare managers on how to improve engagement. Providing the employee specific, concrete examples of problem behaviors. 

Short Conversations

A few years ago I was coaching a department manager who had two very disengaged staff members. This particular manager wasn’t a good communicator, so we were working on improving his coaching conversations with his team members. He was to have a coaching conversation with one of his most disengaged team members, then call me to discuss how it went. He called on schedule and reported that the discussion went well. “It was short and sweet,” he said. “I just said, ‘Your attitude sucks. Fix it or you’re out.’” 

Well, he was right about one thing. It was short. What he described was an edict or threat, not the coaching discussion we assigned. In a coaching discussion with a disengaged individual, it is important to clearly state your concerns, but give specific examples of problem behaviors and how they affect others. 

I’m happy to say that this particular manager made great progress in his coaching conversations with staff over the next year. He learned that if wanted to see change, he needed to clearly state his expectations, identify unacceptable behaviors using specific examples, and explain consequences.  Short and sweet isn’t necessarily the best approach. In contrast, specific, actionable steps get you further, faster.

  1. The real cost of disengaged employees
  2. Will all Disengaged People Raise Your Hand?
  3. You don’t have to coach all high performers
  4. Let’s Free up Some Futures!
  5. Deal Breakers and Hot Buttons

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