Employee Discipline is Frightening

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We will accomplish much more if we are willing to take on our fears.

The picture above surprised me when I found it on my phone. I have no idea why I have that look on my face as if I’m at the top of the first big hill on a roller coaster. I’m actually on the second level of a double-decker tour bus in Montreal.

Many times in my career, I have faced the opportunity to practice what I preach when it comes to employee discipline. This picture reminds me of how I feel when I’m about to have one of those difficult conversations. Even though I have practiced and even teach how to discipline employees, I still get a knot in my stomach every time. What about you?

Is it me? Did I explain it clearly enough the first time? Why can’t she just come to work when she is scheduled and not have a new excuse every week to rearrange her schedule when I’m depending on her? (And for those of you who have seen me talk about Catherine, this is not about her.) Let’s just say this is from some time since I became a lawyer 15 years ago. This one had a happy ending. The employee resigned at my request around the time her 90 days were over.

For those 90 days I was briefly frustrated almost every week when my employee fell short of what I thought were clear and simple expectations. I could have fallen victim to my natural tendency to wait until things got really bad and it was clear the employee should be fired, but I didn’t. Feeling as though I looked like the picture above, I made sure to have those difficult conversations throughout the 90 days.

I get it. I feel your pain. (When did I start quoting Bill Clinton?) Planning and documenting the difficult conversations took time away from what I wanted to focus on in my business. But by doing the hard work early and often, I avoided creating a more difficult situation.

Last week I blogged about being scared to white water raft down the Ocoee. It is after all where the 1996 Olympics kayakers competed.

I am happy to report that not only did I survive, but I truly enjoyed it. After a particularly long rapid I think they call the table saw because it can split you right down the middle, my boyfriend asked me how I was doing. “Awesome, actually. I really enjoyed it.”

As it turned out, I was more scared stepping into the boat than at any point along the river. A close second came when our river guide told us, “If you happen to fall out, swim aggressively to the left.”

Holy crap. Will I be able to swim aggressively to the left? Would that be nose and toes downstream? Or actually swimming paddling with my arms and kicking behind me to the left? Instructions unclear. What am I going to do if I fall out? Yeah, there was a small moment of panic.

But, that fear was nothing compared to what I felt last year. In a moment of calm I realized that without even trying, my fear of white water rafting had dropped from about a seven to a three or a four on a scale of one to ten. How in the world did that happen when I had been so worried just days before?

I realized out there on the water that it was probably just because I had been white water rafting only twelve months earlier. No more waiting twenty years between white water rafting experiences. I can’t handle the increased terror.

For me, that was proof what my business coach had been telling me actually works. Michelle Vendelin (my High Performance Coach certified by Brendon Burchard) had coached me that spending time worried about the outcome of something that scares me is unproductive and makes the fear worse. Just treat the upcoming scary task as practice. Show up to do your best, practice the process of facing it and doing it, and imagine how good you’ll feel if you actually get the outcome you desire. It was amazing to see it actually work with something I wasn’t trying to get better at: white water rafting.

As it turns out, maybe I had more to be scared of than I realized on that rafting trip. This last photo is of my boyfriend’s swim trunks. His swim suit was all in one piece when we started the trip. I have no idea when this six inch tear developed. But, hey, we survived, and we had fun.

Tl;dr: Practice overcoming your fears by just doing it. Just knowing you have survived something before makes it easier, whether it’s reprimanding an employee or rafting the Ocoee.