Insults or excuses? What do you say to that struggling employee?

Tell Me Your Excuses.

What’s the story you tell yourself—when you have a struggling employee on your team?

You hired them. You manage them. They’re a member of your team.

And they’re not performing. Not meeting expectations. Losing you customers. Alienating peers. Making costly mistakes.

Maybe it’s a skills gap. Maybe it was a hiring mistake. Maybe you sold them the job they wanted, not the one you had.

In my 20+ years coaching leaders, here’s what I see leaders do, first:

  • They insult the employee
  • They make excuses for themselves

Hold on. Come on. You knew I would explain what I mean. Hang on. 😉

Faced with an underperforming employee, most leaders start scripting insults.

Insults that, by design, they’ll never deliver (well, some do deliver them—that’s a story for another time).

These are insults that feel good when you utter them to yourself or in your head.

Yeah, it feels kinda nice. Feels good to be mean-spirited.

You feel validated through your insulting because you have been scorned! You and your team and your work and customers have been wronged by this “bad” employee, a sanctimonious, beef-witted pig-nut. (Thanks, William S.)

Instead of stopping to consider what to say and how and when to say it, they start insults.

After insults, they turn things around and make excuses—for themselves.

  • “I just don’t have time to deal with it.”
  • “This a big distraction. I can’t handle this right now. I have to do [insert super duper important task] first. That’s my priority.”
  • “How can I manage them out when I have two open recs right now?!”

I don’t want to hear your insults.

I can get more interesting insults from the Shakespeare Insult Generator, which creates some Olympic-worthy insults: musty, bald-pated, abomination (gold medal); rascally, hard-haired, starve-lackey (silver); facinorous, barren-spirted, cozener (bronze).

do want to hear the excuses you use. Please reply to this email now and share them with me.

During next week’s workshop, I’ll talk about how insults and excuses distract leaders from facing facts and taking action when they have bad managers on their teams.

Don’t forget to register for next week’s free workshop. February 17 at 8:00 am PT/11:00 am ET/16:00 GMT/17:00 CET.

Reminder: Ask Leila Anything (aka office hours) Starts February 22

As I mentioned last week, I want to hear more about the challenges your teams and companies face. And so, I’m introducing “Ask Leila Anything.”

Once a month, for one hour, I’ll sit in a Zoom room and wait for you to come by.

This month it takes place on February 22 at 8:30 am PT/11:30 am ET/16:30 GMT/17:30 CETDownload the invitation.

I hope you stop by to say hello.

Got Bad Managers? No More Insults or Excuses. Register for the Free Workshop.

The title for February’s workshop is Managers Behaving Badly: Stop It Now.

Please join me for a great discussion. You’ll receive a workbook in advance of the event. Free workshop and a free workbook?!

Invite your colleagues, team, and friends.

The more the merrier as we tackle the sheep-biting, stock-fish, and under-honest managers out there!

OK, See You (Next Week)!

Lead with ease and talk to you next week,


PS If you missed last week’s newsletter, I shared that someone sent me this crazy blanket with Fergus the Corgi wearing a military outfit—and the package was missing a card. The sender has come forward! Thank you, Justin Blackman, who has helped take my passion and ideas around Awesome Leader and turn them into amazing web copy. Need a copywriter who works with entrepreneurs and brands you know? Check out Justin and Pretty Fly Copy.