Unprofessional Employee? 5 Steps To Get Back On Track

One of the scariest things as a manager is to pick up the phone and the other person on the line says, “Hey, I’m one of your VIP clients, and you may or may not know this, but your intern or your entry-level employee just told me this.”

And what your intern or entry-level employee said was not professional, not appropriate, or the email they sent is not professional or appropriate. And your stomach just drops, right?

I had this happen once and it was awful. It was a total surprise from the people that had sent the email to a client, but it was also totally uncalled for and unacceptable. An unprofessional employee can harm relationships with clients of all sizes.

However, regardless of the circumstances, you have to have a conversation with your people afterward, and that can be also a very difficult thing to do too.

So, if you find yourself in this situation, here are 5 steps to get back on track when an employee is inadvertently unprofessional to a client:

Working with an unprofessional employee? Start with a question

Ask your employee or your intern, “How do you think this email went?” Or “How do you think this conversation went?”

This question helps you gauge where they’re at with things. They might say something like, “I’m pretty awesome,” and then you have a lot of work to do.

They might say, “Oh, I don’t know. I wasn’t quite sure what to say.” That response puts you on a different playing field. Either way, asking a question helps you figure out the best way to respond.

Talk specifically with them about what didn’t work

Don’t sugarcoat it, just be very honest. Especially if you’re working with Gen Z, this is a group of people that is used to getting feedback. (Of course, this is a generalization, but as a group, they don’t necessarily take things as personally, as other people do, because they’re used to getting lots of feedback.)

Make sure to be really honest, and be specific. Give examples.

Pull up the email and talk through how the wording was taken differently by the audience.

If it was a conversation, make sure to say, “I talked to the person and this is what they were most upset about when you talked with them”.

Give a personal example

Tell the employee about a time when you said something and you messed up, or you were a part of a conversation that didn’t go the way that people expected.

This kind of conversation will build rapport and build your relationship. It will also help your employee understand that everybody makes mistakes, nobody’s perfect, and it’s going to happen.

And, that learning to be a professional is A) learning from your mistakes but B) also working through what happens.

Agree on what’s going to happen next time

When a similar situation comes up, how were they going to react to it? Come and talk to you? Talk to somebody else?

It’s important to be clear and specific about what you want to be different. And for both of you, being on the same page is really important.

Write it down

When you’re done with the conversation, email the employee or the intern, to say “Hey, this is what we talked about. This is what we’re going to do next time.”

Gen Z is used to having things in writing, and so the more that you can have it clearly laid out and step by step, the easier it’s going to be for them to follow it.

And it gives them a resource to go back to, so maybe they don’t have to find you. The next time they run into something similar, they’ll be able to work through the problem on their own.

An unprofessional employee can often have a lot of potential, but may just need some coaching.

As always, remember, reach out if there’s anything I can help you with.

Times are really weird. They’re still weird. So give yourself some space and give everybody else some grace, because we’re back to making difficult decisions.

Keep rocking, and I look forward to connecting with you back here soon!

Have a question that you want some perspective on? Email your situation to
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