Skip to main content

Those First Words: Initiating Criticism of a Senior Employee

It’s one thing to lead and another to find that people actually follow you. What makes you want to follow some people and not others? In a time when most of us would give anything to find just one leader in our government who remembers who they work for, it seems appropriate to offer you this collection of tips for leaders. I will try to keep them practical and useful enough so you can use it as soon as you’ve read it.

What do you say when …it’s your job to initiate criticism of an employee who has been with your agency since you were in high school? Let’s say the employee’s charts are consistently incomplete and do not measure up to the documentation quality of even some of your newest paramedics. He needs a haircut, his leather hasn’t been shined since Y2K, and people are starting to tell you that, well…they’d just rather not work with him, if it’s all the same to you.

Answer: This common prospect has been known to cause insomnia in even the best of us. But it’s not so scary when you consider that experienced people who aren’t performing well are almost always the first to realize it. Often, they’re going through something they could use some help with. Getting them to talk about that depends a lot on how you start the conversation. Arrange some private time, preferably away from your agency’s facilities, and try the following approach:

“Jim, it seems to me there have been some areas of your performance lately that are just not up to your usual standards. It’s my job to bring those to your attention, but even more, I’m wondering, are you OK?”

I have personally seen this strategy produce shock, nervous laughter, silence, blunt denial and even tears. But in every case, it has eventually resulted in specific meaningful dialogue. Make sure your half of that dialogue includes a reminder that the employee is valuable, an expression of your desire to help and an assertion that things need to change because you are both accountable to your agency and the public.

Hope you find that as helpful as I have.

Back to Top