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Having 'The Talk'

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KEYWORDS lenny saucier

I am about to make every person who has ever dated squeamish: “We need to talk.”

Flashbacks of good times. While you technically do not know that actual talk that needs to happen, the training from years of scolding has led you to trust your gut, look down at the ground and shake your head in an affirmative manner all the while blocking out the soundwaves angrily pulsating towards your ears. The talk may not always be all that bad. The mere suggestion of the phrase generally means, “I need your attention.”

So seriously, we need to talk. I think you have lost a great employee who was not ready for a promotion in your eyes. Their self-image of success saw it differently as they watched you hand over their desired title to another person. What was once a great team member on the way to a strong position eventually in your group, churned into a resignation as a result of a search on the ever-popular digital job board, gone to fill the pockets of the company that was not going to hold them down is not the person you passed up, but the person you didn’t talk to about their actual skillsets.

As you know, a higher position in your store requires a higher set of skills, or at least the ability to potentially master those skills. In the four walls of greatness you built, seniority is rewarded with higher pay and maybe better benefits. The idea of “next man up” was squashed when you watched your most senior lube tech apply the torque seal to his tongue because it was made by “organic products.”

Sure, he showed up every day and claims were low, but there was a reason why you kept him in the pit, and your therapist knows it too. Enough of tattoo-face Ray. Let’s talk about the potential star that just quit. Why didn’t you sit down with her about why the job went to someone else? Is the idea of conflict so terrifying that you are willing to lose talent to appease your own guilt of not being the true leader they so desperately need? Perhaps you don’t actually know what you need and you just think the promotion needs to go to “someone who can take my spot when I need them to,” because you know, that seems like a great job description.

Speaking of job descriptions, that’s a great transition to throw on the HR hat and ask for yours. What is it that this position actually requires? Are there certain time slots that need to be filled? Perhaps they need to stay until 7 p.m. to close. Or do you need them on Sundays when you are dawning the apron in front of the BBQ pit? Do they need computer skills to enter data into your accounting software, or write an email or social media post from the company. Perhaps the skillsets are “soft,” leadership, customer service, accountability or goal-oriented. This should all be laid out before you begin to look for the potential person. What else are you going to do, Trust your gut? May I refer you to the beginning of the article.

Your vetting process should largely go off that job description, and your interviews should remain consistent. This is how you avoid hiring bias and discrimination allegations. Let’s say after all that work, you still have someone who is a better fit, and your all-tech will not be your all-star assistant manager. It’s time for the talk.

Arming yourself with your job description and your interview notes, you can easily grade out why someone didn’t get the job. Since you have a clear explanation of your choice you also subsequently created a learning plan for your scorned employee.

So, you are not telling them no, you are telling them how to get to yes! This looks like this conversation is going to be a whole lot easier than your training has taught you it would be. Will she not be happy? Probably not, but she will see that you are trying to help her achieve her goals, even if the path is a little longer.

The conversation should be upfront and acknowledge the disappointment they may be feeling, followed by what you were looking for, and how they graded out. You shouldn’t share your results of other interviews but let her know this other person matched the criteria better. The hard part is over, sit down and openly address your concerns based on their performance that didn’t measure up, from here, offer training or mentoring to help them fill those gaps. These few minutes of understanding and building may just keep your all-star from becoming your best competitor

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