DOT & ELD Guidance Blog

Truck Driver Performance — Prepping for Difficult One-on-Ones

Difficult conversations are an essential aspect of managing people. Here's how to practice and prepare for driver one-on-one meetings.

J.J. Keller Senior Editor J.J. Keller Editor

Mark Schedler - Sr. DOT Editor - J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

October 08 , 2021

In the transportation industry, there’s no shortage of difficult conversations required — speeding events, falsified logs, poor roadside inspections, late deliveries — the list feels endless. The explosion of telematics has given managers tremendous visibility to drivers’ on-the-road behaviors. And digital records make it easier than ever to electronically audit records of duty status (RODS) and shipping documents to catch errors. As you reward good behavior, you should also correct poor behaviors or illegal actions — intentional or unintentional.

Too often, managers resist having these conversations because they expect an unpleasant outcome, or worse, they don’t prepare for the one-on-one and make epic and easily avoidable mistakes.

The reality is that difficult conversations are an essential aspect of managing people. Choosing not to address issues through one-on-one conversations opens your organization to unnecessary risk and potential litigation. Any behaviors that violate established and communicated policies and procedures need to be addressed and documented.

The good news is that if you practice and prepare for difficult one-on-ones, your chance of successfully changing behavior and earning the respect of those you counsel increases dramatically. Of course, you can’t control to whom you must speak. But you can control yourself and, in doing so, reduce the potential for ugly confrontations.

How to Prepare for Difficult Conversations

Consider these tips for better difficult conversations:

  1. Practice what to say. Be comfortable with what to say and how you want to say it. Prepare a script if needed.
  2. Prepare for any reaction. Put yourself in the other person’s situation to gauge possible reactions. The person may be angry or may not respond immediately (which may mean the person is in denial about the problem or is in shock and doesn’t know how or what to say).
  3. Listen and respond with empathy, but do not give the impression that the behavior was acceptable when it was not.
  4. Always have the conversation in a private place. Company policy may dictate that rooms have a small window but choose a room with as much privacy as possible.
  5. Avoid interruptions. Choose a time during which neither you nor the driver/employee will be interrupted.
  6. Be brief and to the point without sounding harsh. Offer only the facts, not generalizations or opinions.
  7. Give the person time to respond. The person’s initial reaction will help tailor the rest of the conversation. When needed, give the person time to compose themself or wait for the anger to cool off.
  8. Don’t make it personal. Instead, focus on the performance issue. Don’t place blame or make accusations.
  9. Don’t butt in. Avoid interrupting and wait until the driver/employee finishes responding. Don’t use phrases that the employee may interpret as dismissive. However, keep the individual on topic and redirect the conversation back to the performance issue as needed.
  10. Explain the consequences and define the next steps. Employees are better able to meet expectations when they know what to do. Determine any additional training or other actions that are required to resolve the performance issue and by when.
  11. Follow up. Schedule a follow-up session, when appropriate, to discuss progress toward the resolution of the unsatisfactory behavior or to recognize improvement efforts.

Improve Driver Performance with Encompass

Encompass® Fleet Management can help you identify areas of risk that need to be addressed, whether it’s hours-of-service violations, poor driving, or another risk. J. J. Keller® ELDs and dash cameras capture specific compliance violations. At the same time, Encompass reporting notifies you of these risk-based events and allows you to document your corrective actions, including training and conversations. See it for yourself, risk-free, with a 60-day no-obligation trial of Encompass. Talk with a compliance specialist or call 855.693.5338.


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