9 out of 10 of our members express hesitation, if not outright panic, when faced with confronting an employee who needs PCC: Progressive Corrective Coaching.

Conflict Avoidant? It’s perfectly human to shy away from giving constructive feedback. Instead of approaching conflict head-on, many of our members resort to the ‘hope it gets better’ strategy, or the more desperate “hope he or she quits” strategy. Experience tells us that these strategies do not improve the situation or protect you legally.

The Volcano Effect In fact, unresolved conflict raises the stress level and sense of distrust and alienation in an office. This often leads to a “volcano effect”. Tempers flare. You or the employee become prone to erupting under pressure at the least suitable time. When you blow your top, you end up creating the very trauma you were trying to avoid in the first place!

Conflict Resolution Communication & Actions

On the other hand, effective conflict communication demonstrates your ownership of and commitment to goals you set for your team.

Mastering the Art of Conflict Resolution Let’s look at specific approaches that will make confronting employees more bearable. With a clear plan, and a little practice, you can master the art of conflict resolution. You CAN get your employees to respond positively to your feedback without resentment or defensiveness.

Actions Speak Louder than Words If actions speak louder than words, let’s first look at what our actions convey. When you tell your employees what you expect of them, you show that you believe in their abilities. When you don’t give your employees the chance to self-correct, you show that you’re not sure they are capable. For your corrective coaching to work, you must believe it can work. Employees sense dishonesty a mile away.

When you meet with your employee, set the tone by establishing the meeting as an opportunity to resolve the conflict (e.g., between two employees or between your expectations and their actual performance). If you haven’t been doing corrective coaching, explain that this is a new policy you plan to use with all employees to foster better performance and more clear communication.

Follow the FIRR Formula. The following formula is a great way to map out your conversation.


Fact • Impact • Reason • Request (F.I.R.R)


Fact. Stick to the facts. Facts are behaviors that you can see or hear. Opinions cause people to go into defensive mode. Using facts reduces the chance your employee will disagree, get defensive, or resent of your efforts. Here are some examples:

Opinion Fact
You’re lazy. You only finished half the project by the deadline.
You’re negative. You said, “I can’t stand this job.”
You’re not a team player. You told Susie you wouldn’t help her because she is slow and it isn’t your responsibility.
You’re never on time. You arrived 10 minutes after your 8:00 a.m. start time.
You’re not thorough. You put 5 files in the incorrect category today.


Impact. The impact is the result of the fact(s) you just referred to. (Follows examples from above).

Impact: Results of the Fact(s)
Because you didn’t complete the project by the deadline, our office missed an opportunity.
When you make statements like, “I can’t stand this job” it lowers office morale.
Refusing to help Susie hurt her feelings and reduced overall office productivity.
Because you weren’t on time, Melanie had to manage two clients at the same time.
It took John over an hour to find the files he needed.


Reason (with Respect). Reason with Respect is how you express your beliefs that: 1) the employee didn’t have bad intentions, and 2) that the employee is capable of performing the action you’ll request. Be assertive, not aggressive, and model the professional tone you expect from the employee.

I know you were working on many things and that you didn’t mean to miss the deadline.
I wonder why you would work in a job you can’t stand.
I know you’re faster at completing your work than some of your co-workers.
I know you didn’t intend for our clients to get less attention than they pay for and deserve.
We are all human; mistakes happen.


Request. Request specific and measurable action that you want the employee to take. How do you know if you’re being specific enough? Let’s look at some examples.

Ambiguous Specific
Let me know if you’re behind. Please tell me within three days of the deadline if you have completed less than 80% of the project.
Be positive. Express your complaints to me and the office manager only. Smile when you answer the phone.
Help your coworkers. When you finish your assigned projects, ask your supervisor what else you can do to meet the office’s needs.
Be on time. Be here 5 minutes before your 1st appointment time.
Pay attention to what you’re doing. Use the file sorter to put your files in order, then have your supervisor review them before you file them away.


If “ifs” and “buts” Were Candy and Nuts… You must avoid two critical words if you want to shut down your employee’s defense mechanism: but and however. When you use either of these words, you negate whatever you said before them.

For example: “I know you didn’t mean to be late, but…” or, “I know you weren’t trying to hurt Susie’s feelings, however…”

Or Cookies… Don’t use the Oreo cookie method of positive-negative-positive when you give feedback or make requests. This model almost always forces you to use “but” or “however”. When you use this method, employees know that after the positive comes the negative.

For example: “You’re doing a great job on…; but, I need you to…

Give Positive Feedback on Its Own. For best results, give positive feedback on its own. Use the FIRR method when you want to request different behavior. Avoid the words “but” & “however”. Give the employee the chance to express his or her point of view, or ask for input on resolving the conflict to reach a “win win” scenario.

Remember:Your employees want to do a great job and get positive feedback. Your job is guiding them with specific and measurable expectations. Overall, the more comfortable you are in giving feedback, both positive and negative, the more comfortable your employees will be with receiving it. Of course, the Solution Center experts can also coach you on what to say, and assist you writing up the documentation if you need it.