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How do I know when to give constructive feedback and coaching, and when to confront?

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It becomes time to confront people when they have been coached on a particular behavior and there has not been enough progress on that behavior. How much is enough coaching? It depends on the seriousness of the behavior. If you are coaching someone on a particular skill, you will likely give the person plenty of time to develop that skill. If, however, there is an expectation with which a staff member is not complying—for example, how to treat staff—you might need to coach them only once or twice before you begin the disciplinary process, which starts with a confrontation.

A confrontation discussion needs to happen:

  • After the person has received adequate coaching and there has not been a satisfactory degree of improvement in performance or behavior; or
  • If the person has violated a policy or a standard or expectation, which makes that person’s behavior unsafe or disruptive

A confrontation discussion differs from a constructive coaching discussion in two very important ways:

  • The behavior in question must change immediately
  • The confrontation discussion includes consequences if the behavior were to happen again

Examples of consequences include verbal warning, written warning, suspension, and termination. When you get to this point in working with someone, be sure to involve your human resources (HR) representative. Whether you are working in a union or nonunion environment, you have to consider possible legal ramifications, and you want to be sure you are in line with the policies of your HR department. Involve them sooner rather than later. They are an extremely valuable resource who will help you stay out of court.

Patty Kubus, RN, MBA, PhD

(March 2011)