The Top Five Employee Excuses and the Leader’s Response

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To be a better leader, you need to know the top five employee excuses for performance and behavior issues. This Leader Feeder offers you a sure-fire formula for handling employee excuses when the do come up.

When a leader addresses a behavior or performance problem, the team member might offer up some excuses to deflect responsibility. It’s important for the leader that you can tell the difference between what is a justifiable reason and what’s an excuse. A reason will tend to pinpoint accountability where as an excuse deflects responsibility.

The formula for handling an excuse is to first acknowledge it, then reframe or refocus on the problem and solution and finally get a commitment to take the desired action.

Here are the five most common excuses and how to handle them:

Excuse #1

“I’m not the only one, others do it too. You’re picking on me. You’re harassing me.”

That last one gets everyone agitated, doesn’t it? First of all, recognize this is an admission of guilt. If I’m telling you that the other people do it too it means that I am doing it.

The leader needs to keep the focus on the individual and avoid making any comments about other employees and what you may or may not do or say to them.

The way you handle this excuse is to say: ” I realize that you might not be the only one. It’s your behavior I observed and what I need you to do is to spend a little less time socializing and more time focused on the work. Can I count on you to do that?”

Excuse #2

“I didn’t know. Nobody told me.”

This is your opportunity to clarify your expectations: “I realize that you might not have been told specifically about the task but this task is a part of your regular job and you’ve performed it many times in the past, so can I count on you to make sure you complete that task next time without being told?”

Excuse #3

“I wasn’t trained”.

This could be true, which would indicate that you would offer more re-training.

However, if the leader knows the employee is trained and has performed the job before you could say: “I hear what you say that you weren’t trained but we both know that you’re trained and you’ve performed the task many times in the past so can I count on you to perform the task correctly going forward?”

Excuse #4

“It’s not my fault.”

Again, you would respond by saying: ” I realize you think it’s not your fault and yet it’s your job responsibility so next time, can I count on you to take responsibility for the task?”

Excuse #5

“I was too busy.”

Your response would be: “I realize that you’ve got a lot on your plate and yet this is a task that’s important and needs to get completed. Can I count on you to make sure that you have time to get this done in the future?”

Remember the formula: acknowledge the excuse by repeating it, then reframe or refocus on the problem and solution and finally, ask for the commitment.

Once your confidence increases you won’t find it a challenge to handle excuses from your team members.

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