Befuddled Barbara is tired of saying the same thing over and over again!

Ask beth

Dear Beth,

I have to coach my staff as part of my role as a manager and I have been doing this for just over a year now. 

I am really tired of telling my staff what to do all the time.  I repeatedly have to remind them to follow our established procedures, and this is with my seasoned staff members! 

They know they are supposed to follow the rules and adhere to our workplace policies, but they continually take shortcuts and I have to keep telling them to follow each step of our procedures. 

I read your reply to Frustrated Felicity and I am trying to do as you suggested to her – I am trying to consider what other factors are contributing to their behaviour and there is no reason for them not to do what they have been told to do.  I am trying not to blame them and to stay ‘above the line’ with this, but I don’t know what to do.  What would you recommend?

Befuddled Barbara


Hi Barbara

Thank you for email and your question.  Firstly, I would like to congratulate you on staying above the line and seeking a positive solution to what you are experiencing.  Playing the blame game is a lose-lose approach, and will always result in a negative outcome.

Have you asked your staff why they are not following the established procedures?  You mention that you cannot see any reason, and I wonder if can they?  Even if they reply that the policy or procedure is nonsensical or irrational, there is a reason they are not adhering to what is being asked of them.  What comes to mind here is one of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits – seek to understand before being understood.  This is a good starting point – if your staff are not following the procedures because they are forgetting all the steps, then providing them with coaching to increase their ability to recall all the steps will demonstrate your support in helping them succeed with workplace requirements.  If it is a matter of insubordination, however, then we have a different conversation on our hands.

As you mentioned you need to remind ‘even your seasoned staff members’ – I am imagining it is not a matter of disobedience.  It is important to choose the most useful mindset– and I recommend adopting the perspective of honesty with integrity and compassion.  This is one of our guiding principles at Alive & Kicking.  Honesty means we speak to the matter at hand truthfully and fairly.  We seek out all the facts pertaining to a situation [not just the ones that support our point of view] and use our integrity to decide which to focus on.  Just because something is the truth doesn’t mean we need to focus on it, or even speak it. When we have compassion in our dealings with others, we consider them, their feelings, the impact on others, and we do so from a heartfelt space.  We feel concern for others and we demonstrate genuine understanding.

Here is an example of this principle in practice: “Today I would like to have a look at your performance with you.  There are some issues for us to discuss.  My role is to help you with our procedures, no matter where the starting point is – and work with you to follow every step.”  And depending on your coaching model, if applying a one-on-one approach this conversation is done on an individual basis in the appropriate coach setting.  If you are using a team coaching approach then ensure the area of focus applies to all who are being coached.  Avoid including those that do adhere to your workplace’s procedures in this discussion. 

The end result is a change in performance – following procedures.  Involve those being coached in brainstorming to decide where the starting point will be, as well as the best path forward to achieve the adherence of the established workplace procedures and policies.  This approach is recommended as it explains the role of the coach, and it does not use accusatory language.  It clearly sets expectations that improvement is necessary.  And when we come from a compassionate place we position ourselves as willing to help, and that the staff have a role to play in receiving that assistance.

It may be that the procedure conflicts with another procedure or workplace demand (such as time to complete a task – perhaps not enough time has been allocated).  It may be that your staff have found a way to improve the procedure and they have decided to change it ad hoc. Your approach to gathering information should reveal this, and the conversation will empower your staff to share their findings and suggestions, as well as enable you to reinforce the need to follow established procedures.  If you believe that your staff are doing the best they can given the information, skills and knowledge they have, you can begin to explore possible contributing factors from a useful point of view. Even if the information you gather leads to a change in the procedure, your people will need to understand the need to follow the established procedure until changes are implemented.

You mention that you coach as part of your role, and I am curious….. is there a formal approach or coaching model you are using? That is something I strongly recommend, so that staff have the assurance the coaching aspect of their work performance is based on sound principles and has a recognisable and repeatable process applied in a consistent manner to all your staff.  Without this, coaching may have blurred boundaries, and your staff will be confused as to which ‘hat’ you are wearing when being coached by you.  When you are wearing the ‘coach hat’ and not the ‘disciplinarian hat’, your people will respond to your questions about their behaviour with greater levels of trust and confidence.  You may need to ‘weave your coach hat’ and create your coach identity more clearly.

Your approach may need to be tweaked to suit your situation.  I hope this has provided you with some tasty ‘food for thought’ and that you can go back to your staff and find a workable solution suitable for all!



All advice given in here is general only and does not take into consideration individual workplace situations, contributing factors, or specific workplace policies and procedures.  We always recommend that you consult your organisations workplace coaching model and adhere to the guidelines particular to your business or organisation.

If you have a workplace coaching situation that you would like Beth to address (in this column or in private), write to




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