The Employee Talk

Guidelines and Recommendations on how to successfully conduct a critical discussion with a team member

Research Paper (undergraduate), 2010
29 Pages, Grade: 2,0


Table of Contents

Executive Summary

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations

List of Figures

1 Introduction

2 Problem Definition

3 Objectives

4 Methodology

5 The Employee Talk
5.1 Terms and Definitions
5.2 Occasions and Types
5.3 Relevant “Communication Soft Skills”
5.3.1 Active Listening
5.3.2 Questioning
5.3.3 Comprehensible Communicating
5.3.4 Giving Feedback
5.4 General Sequences of an Employee Talk
5.4.1 Preparation
5.4.2 Introduction
5.4.3 Main Part
5.4.4 Summary and Termination
5.4.5 Review
5.5 Presentation and Short Evaluation of a practical reference
5.5.1 Positive Aspects
5.5.2 Negative Aspects

6 Results

7 Conclusion


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Executive Summary

The “Employee Talk” forms the object of investigation of this assignment where the author approaches the object from general to detail. Different kinds of occasions for, and the six most common types of employee talks: appraisal interview, delegation interview, conflict-solving interview, promotion interview and target agreement interview are superficially described. A very intensive illustration and breakdown of useful communication soft skills is made, with a special emphasis on “relevant to-dos” and “nice-to-knows” for critical discussions and interviews: The author points out, that “Active Listening” is more than eye contact but also comprises demanding communication techniques like paraphrasing or reflecting. In order to explain the benefits of “Questioning” the questioning funnel is presented and for the ability of “Comprehensible Communicating” the famous four-dimensional model from Langer and Schulz von Thun is described. Finally, the register of five mandatory “how to behave” rules to give good “Feedback” forms the ending of this extensive soft skills part. Then, the actual stages of an employee talk preparation (divided up into three prep periods), introduction, main part, summary and termination and review are explicitly demonstrated and once again focusing on providing “key messages” or mnemonics on how to demean oneself as a manager or disciplinarian to successfully conduct critical discussions or interviews. This means for example that questions to answer in advance (regarding own reactions, motivating employee targets) or possible manipulating actions of employees (acting as the fool, simplifying or trivializing problems) are listed. Furthermore the necessity of precise and concrete target description, formulation of major and secondary objectives, documentations or action plans is explained as well. Ultimately, then the author offers a platform for “practical contest”, because a company guideline for critical interviews is used as an applied example to discover pros and cons. The results section summarizes the main achievements and statements for mutual, constructive and target orientated employee interviews and highlights a ranking of “six communication principles especially meaningful for critical interviews”.

List of Abbreviations

illustration not visible in this excerpt

List of Figures and Tables

Figure 1 – Categories of occasions for employee talks

Figure 2 – Questioning funnel for critical employee talks or discussions

Table 1 – Practical example: interview guideline for a critical dialog

1 Introduction

“Talk low, talk slow and don't say too much”. An idiom of John Wayne puts it in very less words what the overall rule for a critical discussion could be. Yes, indeed he is right when saying do not use sophisticated expressions and thereby stress and overburden the respondent even more because the situation before and during a critical interview or dialog is already full of “nervousness and insecurity”. And yes of course, as we all know by heart every employee is somehow fraught with anxiety for the unknown outcome, when closing the door behind him or her and entering “the lion´s den”. Next, John Wayne reminds us of the “speed of sound” with talking slow, this refers to the “to go or in between”- effect of the fast moving modern (business) life and the shortage of the resource time, especially becoming obvious in employee communication: We often loose precious facts or figures, sentiments of our colleagues and moments of appreciation by bustling through our daily tasks, negotiations or meetings. And finally, John Wayne reminds us of the phenomenon of mutuality, the original sense of a dialog or an interview. Whenever we start talking we risk to get lost into details and thereby loosing the attention of our dialog partner, in order to avoid this and many other mistakes which you have heard of or even experienced in a face-to-face employee talk, just start reading the next pages and keep in mind: “less is sometimes more”, in particular in the amount of using appropriate words, questions or expressions.

2 Problem Definition

The title of this assignment already detects the problem “conduct a critical discussion with a team member” and also expresses the challenge “to do it successfully”. Therefore the issue of being confronted to organize, prepare, conduct, summarize and reinforce a critical discussion, interview or a conflict solving dialog can be regarded as the overall problem definition, or in other words this problem is actually a frequent task for executives and disciplinarians being responsible for employees.

3 Objectives

The main objective of this assignment is to visualize and superficially introduce the overall topic of “employee talks” with all the manifold occasions and interview types. Followed by a deeper, more detailed description and analysis of relevant communication soft skills and the actual stages of an employee talk in order to learn to distinguish when to use which question technique or which finishing verbiages for example. Another objective is to identify positive and negative aspects by the presentation and analysis of a practical example. At last, the author provides a “short guideline of recommendable principles for successfully conducting critical negotiations”.

4 Methodology

In the first part a basic and superficial overview about the topic in general is given, whereas in the second part a detailed cause and effect description for communication skills is made, as well as a clear structured presentation of the five stages of a (critical) employee talk. To consolidate the predominantly theoretical issues and general examples a practical reference is evaluated in the last sub chapter of the main part, before a summary together with an overall evaluation is made in the final parts.

5 The Employee Talk

5.1 Terms and Definitions

Most of the typical leadership tasks focussing on (potential) employees as selection, delegation, development, coaching or motivation do highly involve various ways of communication, communication skills and different dialog situations. A dialog, conversation or interview in the context of practical Human Resource Management is therefore according to Kempe and Kramer “a mutual give and take (...) meanwhile the disciplinarian has to take care of her or his verbal and non-verbal behaviour.”[1] The expression “Employee Talk” is the general English translation for the very wide spread German expression “Mitarbeitergespräch”, however it does not fulfil the role of an equivalent synonym as the wording as such is not so prevalent in American or English companies. The following two primarily German definitions are used to explain significance, requirements, content options of an employee talk in general.

1. “The employee talk numbers among the most prominent leadership instruments and is in any kind of way represent in every company. This way of business communication puts high requirements at the involved persons and requires a consequent development process. Finally, the employee talk is an institutionalized art of feedback, education and target formulation, which can be seen as an original management task.”[2]
2. The employee talk is a dialog in the framework of cooperative leadership, for example for the briefing, information and consultancy of the employee. Both partners should listen actively and let each other finish speaking.[3]

A special form of the employee talk, representing the matter of frequency is the so-called “annual employee talk” as “a feasible and packed form of employee talk, in which in particular appraisal, promotion, target formulation and expert talk are summarized in one regularly occurring talk.”[4]

An employee talk can contain positive, negative or neutral matters and only through reciprocity and fairness these talks can be conducted target-oriented and allow an interactive exchange over the respective individual matter.

5.2 Occasions and Types

In order to structure and illustrate the pool of different occasions for employee talks the author has chosen the following figure picturing four categories:

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 1: Categories of occasions for employee talks

Source: Author´s own design, based on the research of Demmer (1999) and Westermann (1992)

With regard to the figure above it follows that the tremendous and manifold range of topics and occasions requires different types of employee talks which could be carried out either by

- a line manager alone or
- a line manager assisted with an HR manager or
- a line manager and a member of the work council or
- a line manager together with an external mediator, consultant or trainer etc.

The following six types of employee talks or interviews come across very frequently in business companies.

a) Appraisal interview

The modern form of an appraisal interview creates a platform for a dialog of the two-way perception and feedback.[5] There are mainly two different criteria which are assessed within this type of employee talk:

The performance appraisal refers to the performance and if possible measureable work results of the employee in the past.

The potential assessment tries to capture the aptitude of an employee for future tasks and is often combined or integrated within an assessment centre.

The appraisal for executives is enlarged with the catalogue of key criteria often developed within the organisation or in cooperation with HR consultancies.

b) Delegation interview

The primary target of a delegation interview is already included in the name, but besides the delegation of a “simple work order”, a “complete work task” or even a “line of action” to an employee it is according to Kießling-Sonntag far more important to also delegate the responsibility and to admit the necessary competencies.[6] Therefore a successful delegation interview increases motivation and company identification for the employee and can disburden the line manager if she or he is willing to “let go of tasks”, nevertheless “the implementation of repeated responses is useful.”[7]

c) Expert interview

The expert interview or talk (formerly known as subject interview) is aimed at the establishment and problem solving of professional issues and typically takes places between the employee and her or his functional supervisor. The core elements are reporting and status quo information on current tasks and projects, mutual feedback and if necessary amendments or solving possibilities for discovered critical professional issues. Especially in the fast-moving business workaday life including its “operative bustle”[8] the relevance and the benefits of regular expert interviews have grown.

d) Conflict solving interview

Whenever and wherever people are working or living together conflicts are nearly unavoidable, the “dramaturgy of uncontrolled conflict progressing” takes place over five stages according to Doppler and Lauterburg[9]:

1. The discussion
2. The overlap
3. The escalation
4. The hardening

Due to conflicts, massive problems within work processes are occurring and most often deserve a clarification by a “higher authority”, accordingly this delivers and explains the purpose of a conflict solving interview. The emotional involvement in conflict interviews is more intense than in the interview types b) or c) and enough time and preparation effort are required in order to understand the circumstances, create clearance among all “participants” and ideally discuss “constructive future perspectives”[10] with an external or neutral mediator.

e) Promotion interview

The promotion interview tends to specify and concretize the professional development of an employee within a company. Therefore the strengths and opportunities of an employee mark the starting point of this interview, which should have an appreciating character.[11]. Secondly, the promotion interview is linked with the appraisal interview as the results within the “rating sheet” form a basis for the deeper discussion and the employee could name his or her career goals which are then balanced with the career possibilities the company offers. Finally, on the basis of goals, rating sheet, personal and professional competencies and a feedback of the responsible line manager adequate career measures should be appointed as the result of a promotion interview.


[1] Kempe and Kramer (1989), p.15

[2] Gutschelhofer (2004), p.1222

[3] Olfert (2008), p.237

[4] Gutschelhofer (2004), p.1227

[5] Gutschelhofer (2004), p.1223

[6] Kießling-Sonntag (2000), p.141

[7] Gutschelhofer (2004), p. 1225

[8] Kießling-Sonntag (2000), p.147

[9] Doppler and Lauterburg (1994), p.35

[10] Gutschelhofer (2004), p. 1226

[11] Compare: Kießling-Sonntag (2009), p.154

Excerpt out of 29 pages


The Employee Talk
Guidelines and Recommendations on how to successfully conduct a critical discussion with a team member
University of applied sciences, Munich  (MBA )
Soft Skills and Leadership Management Core Module
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
564 KB
Leadership, Employee Motivation, Feedback, Active Listening, Questioning, Interviews, Communication Principles
Quote paper
Julia Wimmers (Author), 2010, The Employee Talk, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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