Many business owners call me and say, “I am having issues with an employee, can you help?”

I often find business owners, leaders and managers are not communicating well, or at all. They avoid the conversation because quite often, they’ve either let the problem go on for too long, or they don’t know how to broach the subject, or both.

Some of the things I hear all the time are:

  • They have a bad attitude and are affecting the culture
  • They’re not meeting my expectations
  • They’re not motivated and don’t seem to be happy
  • Sick leave days have increased
  • Something is off with our culture
  • People are leaving
  • I’ve received a fair work complaint

And, all of these things are perplexing to the leader, like they didn’t see it coming. Or they tell me, “it has been going on for a really long time and I don’t know how to deal with it.”


as leaders, it’s our fault!

I am not going to sugar-coat it, most of these problems are our fault as leaders, managers, and employers.

How many people can put their hand up and say “I am trained in managing people, and I know how to handle every situation that arises?” Not many, and you are not alone.

If you were to think back and ask yourself why you went into business, I would expect that the top 5 answers would have nothing to do with “having all the best skills and strategies to keep employees happy!” You wing it, right? Your first employee started and it grew from there with hits and misses along the way.

But that’s fine, I have good news! It’s easy to put some simple steps in place to ensure that difficult conversations can be reduced, and if you do have a situation that involves a difficult conversation, you have tools in your tool kit to help you.

Leading and managing people is not always easy, and it certainly isn’t a ‘set and forget’. Remember, we are working with humans, and every single person is on their own journey, including you as the leader or owner of the business. When someone is happy at work, another may not be. If we have the right skills, tools, and framework in place for our people, you will sleep better at night and be able to focus on your business goals, with a supportive team to help you!


have a structured approach

Regardless if you have one or many employees, you should have a structured approach and get these steps right!

  1. Know why you are in business and communicate this!
  2. Get the rules around employment in Australia RIGHT! [Ignorance is not an option]
  3. Always hire with your values in mind [Do you demonstrate your values in your behaviour?]
  4. Set very clear expectations from DAY 1 [Do you have position descriptions and employment contracts?]
  5. Onboard your team members effectively [setting the scene and getting to know them is crucial]
  6. Treat the employee relationship like any relationship, you need to continually make an effort, otherwise, it will fizzle out. [We are all different, you will need to take the time to understand the different motivations]
  7. Have a process in place that gives you the opportunity to have regular, meaningful conversations where you ask the RIGHT questions. [Throw out the annual performance review]
  8. Be open to learning and adapting as a leader [Do you have a growth mindset?]

If you find yourself getting stuck on any of the steps above, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me for a chat and I can help you get over any hurdles.


what can you do today?

Setting up the full structure may take some time, in the meantime, there’s one very small but powerful step you can take today…

Arrange to catch up with each employee in your business for a casual conversation and chat about their role and how they are going. Below are some questions you may like to ask.

  • Is your role clear to you and has it changed since you started with us?
  • What do you love about your role and which aspects do you feel you do well?
  • What don’t you love about your role and where are you struggling?
  • Where could I better support you?
  • What would you like to achieve in the next 12 months?
  • How can I help you get there? Let’s set a plan.
  • Are you happy with your salary/wage? Do you feel valued? [Don’t avoid this conversation, just do your research and be prepared and know that you can go away and come back to this discussion if needed]

To make this a meaningful conversation, you need to provide feedback on their performance and questions 2 + 3 are ripe for the picking! Be prepared to share your observations and if you know you have never been clear on expectations then ‘fall on your sword’ and apologise for not being clear. Use this conversation to get clear and reset.

Finally – document your conversation, especially if performance improvements are needed. Agree on a plan with them and follow up in writing. [You will thank me for this if push comes to shove]

Having meaningful conversations is like anything that you want to become good at, it takes practice!

So get talking!


we’re here to help

If you would like any help setting up processes tailored for your business, you can give the People + Culture team a buzz on 1300BDEPOT or get in touch at


Originally authored by Anna Chipperfield.