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Employee Confrontation Can Get Easier: The FIRR Technique

Author: Paul Edwards
Paul Edwards

Paul Edwards

Paul Edwards is the CEO and Co-Founder of CEDR HR Solutions and author of the blog HR Base Camp. Since 2006, CEDR has been the nation’s leading provider of customized dental employee handbooks and on-demand HR solutions, helping dentists and their office managers successfully handle employee issues, prevent and resolve disputes before they lead to lawsuits, and safely navigate the complex employment law landscape. Our Solution Center is staffed by HR experts and attorneys. Call 866-414-6056 or visit www.cedrsolutions.com.
05.27.15 / 12:33 pm

Employee Confrontation Can Get Easier: The FIRR Technique

Doctor And Nurse Having Informal Meeting In Hospital Canteen

Have you ever felt reluctant, hesitant, or downright panicked at the thought of confronting a difficult employee? You’re not alone! But there is a way to make coaching and confronting employees easier, no matter how difficult the topic or the person. Better yet, the “FIRR” Formula is easy to learn and start applying today.

It might sound like some kind of pine tree, but “FIRR” actually stands for four distinct steps to address whenever you talk with an employee about an issue or problem in your practice:

FIRR:

Fact

Impact

Reason

Request

When strung together, the four FIRR steps make up a strategy that helps you stay on track, so you can discuss nearly any employee issue fairly and calmly.

Here’s what’s involved in each step:

Facts are specific behaviors you can see or hear. For example: “You were 10 minutes late on Monday morning.” This is indisputable, and a lot more powerful than opinions.

Impact is the result of the fact. Specify what’s wrong with the situation that occurred. For example: “Because you were late, Sarah had to handle two clients by herself until you came in.” The impact is why you’re bringing this issue up in the first place.

Reason is your statement of belief that the employee didn’t have bad intentions for their action, and that you believe they are capable of the action you will request. For example: “I know you didn’t intend for our clients to get half the attention they pay for.”

Request is the specific, measurable action you want the employee to take. For example: “Going forward, I expect you to be here five minutes early to set up your station and get ready for the day.”

The steps involved in the FIRR method are easy to remember, understand, and implement, and will help you plan more successful, on-track coaching sessions right from the start. However, using it to best effect takes practice…and there are just a few pitfalls to watch out for.

What about using positive feedback to soften the blow?

 It often feels like a good idea to tell employees what they are doing well immediately before discussing a problem. It might also seem wise to use a follow-up compliment to end the conversation on a high note. Here’s an example: “Patients always remark on how cheerful you are. It’s just that your frequent tardiness is a problem. You’re a great employee otherwise.”

Avoid this. The “sandwich” method, where an employer makes positive-negative-positive statements, is inadvisable because it’s predictable. It raises defenses: when your employee hears the positive statement, they know a criticism will follow. Rather than softening the blow, this de-emphasizes the problem you’re addressing while also implying that your positive feedback is not to be trusted, and is merely a cushion for criticism.

For best results, give positive feedback on its own: frequently, and right when it’s deserved. Then employees know what they’re doing well, and that it’s appreciated. Use the FIRR method to make a specific request for a different behavior.

The un-magic words: “but” and “however”

Since expressing belief that the employee didn’t have bad intentions is part of the FIRR method, it’s also tempting to use the words “but” or “however” right after your “Reason” statement. For instance, “I know you didn’t mean to be late, but…” Or, “I know you weren’t trying to hurt Susie’s feelings, however…”

Avoid this, too! These wordings also raise defenses, since something negative is obviously about to follow. They also weaken and negate your previous expression of belief in the employee’s intentions.

The FIRR steps should be used in order. Once you state the facts and impact of the employee’s actions, andexpress your belief that they did not have bad intentions (the “Facts,” “Impact,” and “Reason” steps), it’s time to move right along to the final step: a specific Request for the future.

No volcanos in the workplace

Without the FIRR technique, unresolved conflict can raise the stress level in your office and create a sense of distrust or alienation on your team, leading to a “volcano effect” where either you or an employee erupts under pressure at the least suitable time. “FIRR,” on the other hand, is your roadmap for staying on track and providing the feedback and direction employees need to improve.

Overall, the more comfortable you are in giving feedback, both positive and negative, the more comfortable your employees will be with receiving it. Remember, nearly all employees want to do a great job. Your job is guiding them with specific and measurable expectations.

And for those few “bad apples” who won’t self-correct, FIRR is your chance to set expectations, monitor progress, and, if necessary, get your documentation in order so you can move them towards the door.

Paul Edwards

Paul Edwards is the CEO and Co-Founder of CEDR HR Solutions and author of the blog HR Base Camp. Since 2006, CEDR has been the nation’s leading provider of customized dental employee handbooks and on-demand HR solutions, helping dentists and their office managers successfully handle employee issues, prevent and resolve disputes before they lead to lawsuits, and safely navigate the complex employment law landscape. Our Solution Center is staffed by HR experts and attorneys. Call 866-414-6056 or visit www.cedrsolutions.com.

Paul Edwards

Paul Edwards

Paul Edwards is the CEO and Co-Founder of CEDR HR Solutions and author of the blog HR Base Camp. Since 2006, CEDR has been the nation’s leading provider of customized dental employee handbooks and on-demand HR solutions, helping dentists and their office managers successfully handle employee issues, prevent and resolve disputes before they lead to lawsuits, and safely navigate the complex employment law landscape. Our Solution Center is staffed by HR experts and attorneys. Call 866-414-6056 or visit www.cedrsolutions.com.

5 responses to “Employee Confrontation Can Get Easier: The FIRR Technique”

  1. Very helpful technique here. It’s important to remember to be respectful to your employees – respectful, but not a pushover. Finding that balance is the key to being a good employer.

  2. […] Employee Confrontation Can Get Easier: The FIRR Technique Do you have a difficult employee but you’re unsure of how to confront them? You’re in luck! The Dental Geek has a new way to make coaching and confronting employees easier with the “FIRR” Formula. FIRR stands for the four distinct steps of Fact, Impact, Reason and Request. Read on to see what is involved in each step of the formula. […]

  3. I feel like as long as you, the boss, are personable and relatable, the employees will respond likewise. Simply being nice to people goes a long way!

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