The Employee Rescue

(image via

(image via

Getting someone to admit they have a behavioral problem is one of the most difficult of a manager's tasks. Many a night has been filled trying to figure out how to get the message through after a number of attempted and failed conversations.

The following is an approach that has been very successful. It is loosely based on an interview strategy used by the OSS to interview Nazi war criminals after World War II. Why use this model? Because getting people to admit ownership of a problem is a huge issue. And who historically refused to take culpability in any behavior or consequences of action more than the Nazi’s. Please note: I am not comparing your problem people with the WWII German government. But I am taking a very effective historical approach and applying it to a modern situation. As a strategy it was and is effective with all types of resistance.

The basic philosophy is to follow a protocol and ask questions. That is all. You do not threaten, lose your temper, apply pressure or preview consequences. In short, you never have to present the hard perspective if done right. The employee comes to his or her own conclusions through the asking of a few very specific and targeted inquiries.

The secret is to make sure you repeat the question until you get an answer you want, i.e. “I understand you feel it’s my issue to solve, but...” Do not get hooked. Instead be a broken record. Calm and resolute. It helps to think a bit beforehand about what the predictable resistances be to the “Rescue” questions might be. Because the questions are given to you, preparing yourself psychologically is the most important thing.

Thus beforehand consider what you want the outcome of the meeting to be? What do you need the outcome of the meeting to be? What will be the consequences if no change occurs? To the problem (or person)? To you? If no change occurs what are you prepared to do? This helps get you ready emotionally.

If you follow the below steps you improve your chances for a successful resolution.

First, describe the problem. Then begin the protocol. Do not move to another question until you have gotten an acceptable answer to the one you are asking. Follow the steps. Do not skip any. I have given you some choices, in case one feels better than another.

  1. How do you think people feel when you behave like that? Or why do you think I’m concerned?

  2. How would you feel if others treated you that way? Or what would you do if you were in my shoes?

  3. What do you think this will do to your career here if this continues? Or what do you think the consequences of this continued situation will be?

  4. How do you think I feel about this? Or why do you think I'm talking to you about this?

  5. How could you behave differently so you don't have this effect?

  6. How would you feel if we discussed this on a regular basis?

  7. How often should we meet?

  8. What can I do to help?

Always end positively with encouragement for change and the belief that a positive outcome is what you both want.