Got a tough feedback challenge?

Photo of person sitting against a wall holding up a sad-face poster.I once worked with someone who was, let’s say, an extreme health enthusiast. He ran marathons for fun, and ate raw garlic for his immune system and cholesterol.

He was smart and good at his job … and we all thought he was probably an interesting person, but no one wanted to get close enough to find out.

A colleague had a similar, albeit less aromatic, challenge: how to let an employee know that their job focus needed attention: they were coming in late, leaving early, and spending way too much time on personal phone calls.

Whether it’s a personal or professional issue – garlic or time management – giving someone feedback about their behavior is tricky, to say the least. It feels delicate, embarrassing, and potentially offensive.

Nonetheless, it has to be done. Here are six steps to take.

Step #1: Deliver the news in private

No one should have an audience when they’re being given constructive feedback of any sort, especially when the feedback is about a personal or behavioral habit.

If your office doesn’t have a door that closes – or it’s a “fishbowl” with windows on the world – find a space where you can deliver the news without watching eyes or listening ears.

Step #2: Avoid the “feedback sandwich”

The “feedback sandwich” is an outdated and ineffective way of giving corrective feedback. The idea is that by stating a positive first, then describing the desired behavior change, and ending with a second positive, you’ve set someone up to be receptive, and left them feeling okay about themselves.

But when the constructive feedback is in the middle of two “attaboy” or “attagirl” statements, it dwindles into insignificance. And as much as we’d all love to help everyone feel great about themselves all the time, when we want someone to do things differently, they need to feel at least a little remorseful about what they’ve been doing.

So skip the sandwich!

Step #3: Set the stage

Start out with, “I’m sorry, but you’re not going to like what I’m about to say,” or, “I’m afraid I have something challenging to discuss with you.”

No one enjoys being blind-sided by bad news. When you prepare them in this way, they’re, well, prepared. In most cases they’ll actually over-prepare, anticipating the worst. Then, when you tell them what’s actually on your mind, at best it will be a relief, and at least it won’t be coming out of the blue.

Step #4: Deliver the facts

We all know not to make it about the person – but when it’s a behavioral issue (“you stink of garlic!” or “you’re always late!”), it can be hard to avoid.

Writing down the facts ahead of time can help.

“When you eat raw garlic, it’s hard for people to be around you because of the smell.”

“For the past three weeks, you’ve come in at least half an hour late, and left at least 20 minutes early, every day.”

These are facts, not character flaws. Because of that, they’re hard to argue with – and less likely to be offensive or cause hurt feelings.

Step #5: Define specific changes

You delivered the facts, now you need to describe success.

“Please find an alternative to raw garlic.”

“I need you to arrive on time at least four out of five days, and leave early only if you’ve gotten permission to do so.”

Set a specific deadline by which the behavior needs to change, and confirm that they understand what they need to do and are on board with doing it.

Because you’re sticking to the facts, both in terms of what’s currently happening and what you want to have happen, they have very little room for pushback. (What to do if they do push back is a subject for another day.)

Step #6: Follow up

Phew. The hard part is over – and now it’s tempting to dust off your hands and move on with all the other things on your to-do list.

But you still need to monitor and follow up. Did they actually make the change you asked for? If so, recognize them for their effort. If not, you need to escalate – and depending on the seriousness of the issue, perhaps initiate a performance improvement plan.

Want to learn more about dealing with challenging employees and difficult management situations? Check out my video playlist on Managing Difficult Employees at!

gljudson Better conversations, Management & Leadership

Ever considered thinking … smaller?

Photo of a hand holding a tiny seedlingEveryone implores you to THINK BIG.

Go big or go home. Be audacious. Don’t settle. Be all you can be (if not more). Set BHAGs (big, hairy, audacious goals). Shoot for the moon – or is it the stars?

It’s exhausting.

And often demoralizing.

Because let’s face it, when we set those BHAGs, we’re likely to miss the mark at least some of the time – if not most of the time.

Let me be perfectly clear: I’m absolutely not advocating for giving up on your dreams and aspirations.

What I am saying is that getting there is the result of a lot of small steps, not one giant leap.

The people who succeed in climbing Mount Everest don’t do it in a single bound.

They plan. They practice. They consider options. They gather skills and supplies. They learn from others’ experience and expertise.

And then they show up at the bottom of the mountain and start, one step at a time, up the slope.

One step at a time. Focused on just the next step toward the top, and not on the top itself.

What if you thought smaller about your BIG goals?

Because here’s the thing: that BIG goal is wayyyy out there in the future, and it’s awfully easy to feel like you’re not making progress.

Go ahead and set the BIG goal.

And then look at the next smallest thing you can do to get there. And do it.

This creates a feeling of accomplishment, a quick burst of pride and confidence.

And that gives you the momentum to take the next smallest step. And the next, and the next, and so on.

Then, when you look up, you’ll be a lot closer to your goal.

So think smaller … about your big dreams.

gljudson Career development, Self-talk

What HAVE you done?

Small 3-D figure inserting green checkmarks into a three-box gridNo, seriously.

What have you done?

Usually at the end of the year, we look at what we want to do in the next year.

Go ahead. Feel free.

But first, consider what you’ve done THIS year.

I’ll guarantee it’s more than you think. Because we’re all very quick to put completed projects and successful endeavors behind us and hurry on to The Next Thing.

Don’t do it.

Stop. Look back through your calendar. Think about what happened. Think about the people, the conversations, the events, the things you did and the projects you completed.

And notice just how much it all was, and how meaningful at least some of it was.

Then … do it again, only for the whole decade.

Yep. A new decade is about to start, so take some time to look at what this decade that’s passing has given you, shown you, taught you.

Don’t be so quick to rush on to what’s next.

Take the time to feel good about what’s passed – and learn from it.

Maybe you’ll learn that you’re a badass, stronger and more creative than you thought. Or that your friends love you. Or that you’ve shifted some bad habits of thought, doing, and/or being. Or that you’ve created some new habits that support you. Or that you’ve traversed an important milestone – or several. Or that you’ve found joy in unexpected places (or, for that matter, exactly where you expected to find it!).

And that you’ve learned from your mistakes.

So, what have you done?

Enjoy it. Luxuriate in it. Dwell on it. Snuggle up with it.

And then – but only then – think about what next year, and the next decade, might bring.

For some structured help with this process, click here to download my Reflective Review worksheet. No cost, not even your email! Happy Holidays!

gljudson Career development, Self-talk

Managing a bullying employee

Bullying and sexual harassment are HARD topics, and dealing with the employee in question is especially challenging.

The laws about “hostile work environment” vary from place to place and the policies vary from company to company. So, in managing this type of challenging employee, you’ll need to rely heavily on your Human Resources folks.

That said, I include tips and ideas and support on managing a bully or a sexual harasser in this video – the sixth in the playlist on how to manage challenging employees.

gljudson Difficult people, Video

Five true joys of being a manager

Photo of a very happy man in a red sweater standing before a blue block wallI’ve spent the last month or two writing and video-ing about the problems, challenges, and hardships of managing and leading.

It was getting depressing.

So as an antidote, and in no particular order, here’s a list of five really fun, rewarding, and great things about being a manager.

1. You get to delegate

No, I’m not being sarcastic or snarky.

I’m serious.

Isn’t it time you stopped doing all the old familiar stuff, and started learning something new?

Plus, delegating means …

2. You get to help others grow

Everyone on your team has things they want (and need ) to learn. As a manager, supervisor, and leader, it’s up to you to assess where they are and bring the joy of learning and growing to each of them according to what they want and need. And helping people discover new ideas and develop new skills is a wonderful experience.

3. You get to make decisions

Instead of only and always being subject to the decisions of others, as a manager, supervisor, and leader, you get to start making at least some of the decisions yourself – decisions that create real results for your team and your organization.

4. You get to see a bigger picture

As an individual team member, you saw what was right in front of you and a little bit around you.

Now that you’re stepping into a bigger role, you also get a bigger, broader view of what your company is doing, where it’s going, and how it’s getting there. And that’s interesting, intriguing, and perhaps even inspiring. Especially when you notice that …

5. You get to have an impact

The first-line manager, supervisor, and leader has more impact and influence on the majority of any organization’s employees than anyone else.

Because of you, they feel inspired, motivated, and happy in their jobs. They go home in a good mood, ready to enjoy their families and friends. They wake up without dreading the day – and maybe even looking forward to it.

A little scary, a lot exciting

Having that much fun is a big responsibility.

Go for it!

When you’re ready to learn more about becoming an inspiring, motivating, supportive manager, supervisor, and leader – check out the Empowered Leadership Program. It’s specifically designed to provide the foundational skills and understanding that every manager and supervisor needs on their journey into leadership. Click here:

gljudson Management & Leadership

Managing a disrespectful employee

If you’ve been wondering what to do with the employee who undermines you, challenges your authority, and maybe even disobeys your instructions outright, then you want to watch this video.

I’m going to give you some tips and approaches, and one really great tool, that will help you deal with a disrespectful employee on your team and nip that behavior in the bud.

Being a new manager or new supervisor is hard, and some employees on your team just make it that much harder. It’s no fun having an employee who’s resentful, pushes back, or tries to undermine you.


gljudson Difficult people, Video

Is management leadership?

Graphic of 3D small figure in thinking pose before a large teal question markMany people will answer “no” to that question. No, they say. Management is management, and leadership is leadership, and the two have different objectives and different activities.

A lot of opinion on the internet reinforces that point.

I disagree, which won’t surprise anyone who knows me.

If you have at least one person reporting to you at least some of the time, you can’t be a good manager without also being a leader. It doesn’t matter what your official title or role may be: when you’re responsible for an employee, even if only some of the time, you need leadership skills if you want to succeed.

If you don’t have anyone reporting to you, ever, then maybe you’re not a leader. But don’t kid yourself: people who aren’t officially managers are often leaders nonetheless – if not at work, then at home or in the community.

Of course there are skills and tasks related to management, and skills and tasks related to leadership.

But there’s tremendous crossover.

As a manager, you need your team to do what you ask them to do in order to accomplish something.

As a leader, you need to motivate and inspire your team to do what you ask them to do in order to accomplish something with excellence.

Peter Drucker, the late, esteemed management consultant, educator, and author, wrote, “One does not ‘manage’ people… The task is to lead people. And the goal is to make productive the specific strengths and knowledge of every individual.”

People continue to cling to this perceived distinction between management and leadership. But what they’re not noticing is that it arose out of industrial-era needs that are no longer relevant in today’s knowledge economy. A manager on an assembly line wasn’t interested in their team’s professional development or in employee engagement. They were simply interested in getting as much stuff put together as effectively and efficiently as possible, with as few mistakes as possible.

That’s management, not leadership. And I guess it’s still relevant for assembly lines.

But as Drucker points out, that’s not the reality for the majority of managers and supervisors today, and it’s not the reality that employees today want to work within.

So if you aspire to be a good manager, you’d better also aspire to be a good leader.

gljudson Management & Leadership

Managing a lying employee

How to Manage Difficult Employees – Managing a Lying Employee // It’s the thing we NEVER want to have to deal with – confronting a cheating, lying, dishonest, or unethical employee.

In this video you’ll learn what you need to do when you have to deal with a dishonest employee, especially as a new manager or new supervisor. It’s not fun, but it’s a necessary leadership skill and management skill: how to verify whether you really do have an unethical employee on your team, and what to do about it based on the severity of the dishonest behavior.

gljudson Difficult people, Video

Managing a lazy employee

There’s someone on your team who just can’t seem to come to work on time, or always takes an extra-long lunch, or consistently leaves early. Deadlines? As the saying goes, they make a lovely noise when they go whooshing by – they just can’t seem to ever deliver their work on time.

The disengaged employee is a problem. The rest of the team gets resentful – and let’s face it, so do you.

What can you do? How can you deal with the lazy or disengaged employee? Watch this video to learn how to evaluate what’s really going on AND deal with the situation once and for all.


New managers and new supervisors often wrestle with challenges such as these – and my YouTube channel is THE place to get the tips and ideas you need to become the leader you want to be. So make sure you subscribe and click the little bell to get notified when I release a new video every Wednesday!

gljudson Difficult people, Video

But what about the baggage?

Photo of assorted suitcases and duffels on a white backgroundIf you’re an adult, you’ve got some.




Hot buttons.

Whatever you want to call it.

Because no one gets into adulthood without at least a little baggage – and some have a lot.

And we bring this baggage into the workplace with us, whether we like it or not.

So do our employees and team members.

But what do you do when one of your team is being held back by their baggage?

You’re not qualified

You’re not qualified to be a therapist or counselor. (Unless, of course, you are a therapist or counselor.)

It’s not your place to try to “fix” or even help heal. Don’t go there.

Also, please note: I am emphatically not suggesting that someone who could be a danger to themselves or anyone around them should be in your workplace.

am suggesting that these situations must be handled with care and sensitivity.

With that said, there are fundamentally two options.

Option One

If the baggage is creating a serious performance problem, and you’ve done your best to provide training and support, you could simply let the person go.

Shall we skip the euphemism? You could fire them for non-performance.

And in some cases, that might be exactly what you need to do.

Option Two

People with baggage also often have a ton of potential. If the employee is otherwise a good fit for the job and the company culture, it can be both worthwhile and extremely rewarding to go an extra mile or two.

I know a super-smart woman who’s the CEO and founder of an early-stage, pre-revenue startup. And she has a coach working with her whole team and herself. Like I said, super-smart: she’s not waiting till there’s positive cash flow to provide the support they need.

So one possibility is to follow her example and hire a coach for your employee – and for yourself, to help you help them.

I already said “you’re not qualified,” so take this next idea with caution. But if you share some of your own baggage-related challenges, it can help normalize the experience for someone who might think you – as The Boss – never get triggered or have your buttons pushed – or at least, never at work.

By inviting them to understand how having hot buttons and baggage is part of everyone’s experience, you also invite them to step outside of their immediate perspective. And that can help create space for them to grow into their job responsibilities.

It’s a balancing act

As much empathy and compassion as you might have for someone, they still have a job to do. And it’s not your responsibility – or, frankly, your problem – that they have baggage.

Be clear about your boundaries. Don’t overstep into advice or counsel about their private life, even if they ask.

If it sounds like I’m saying two different things – “help them” / “don’t help them” – well, I sort of am. It’s a balancing act.

Many managers would simply conclude that employees who aren’t performing, regardless of the reason, need to either improve, or go.

And that’s true. I’m not suggesting holding on indefinitely to an employee who’s not doing the job you need them to do.

But I’ve seen some beautiful things happen when potential is encouraged, with patience and understanding.

gljudson Management & Leadership