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The FIRR Method for Conflict Resolution

It's HR Tuesday!

Whether you’re new or just getting started as a manager, asking for change and encouraging self-improvement is rarely easy. It’s not surprising, then, that here at CEDR, we see many employers in small practices wait until they are at the end of their rope to confront employees about problematic behavior.

While we understand the impulse to avoid confrontation, it’s important to note, soliciting change does not always have to be confrontational. In fact, we’ve developed a method of feedback that one of our members called a “true gift.” Many CEDR members tell us this method, the FIRR Method, has been a game-changer for them as a manager and, because of that, we wanted to share this method with the AADOM Tribe.

What is the FIRR Method?

The FIRR Method… This text opens a new tab to the pag=e on the FIRR method… is a conflict resolution approach that falls under the umbrella of Progressive Corrective Coaching or PCC. PCC… This text opens a new tab to the PCC page… is a method of leadership that pairs communication that facilitates your employee’s understanding of their role with ongoing documentation that protects your business should the employee’s behavior not improve. An important part of this leadership style involves using the FIRR Method to mitigate conflict and change employee behavior.

What does FIRR stand for?

FIRR stands for:

Facts – Stick to the facts. Opinions and generalizations make people defensive.

Impact – Detail the specific impact the employee’s behavior has had on your workplace.

Reason – Reason with respect. Doing so lets your employee know you believe they are capable of changing their behavior.

Request – Ask the employee to take specific and measurable action(s).

How does the FIRR Method work?

Let’s apply the method above to Jeremy, a medical receptionist who was twenty minutes late for his shift.

F – Fact

“Jeremy, you were twenty minutes late today.”

Avoid generalizations and opinions like, “You’re always late,” or “You don’t take your job seriously enough” which will only put your employee on the defensive.

I – Impact

“Since you weren’t here to answer the phones or greet patients, I had to ask Fatima to stop prepping the rooms and do that for you. Because of that, we’ve been running almost 30 minutes late all day.”

Getting specific with the impact helps your employee understand the importance of their role. It also helps them understand that the rules are not arbitrary, rather, an important part of ensuring that the staff and patients are treated well and the practice runs smoothly.

R – Reason

“I know you have a lot on your plate, and you didn’t mean to put the whole office behind, Jeremy.”

This very important step lets your employee know that you believe they are capable of improving their job performance.

It’s so tempting to say the word “but” after this step– as in, “I know you didn’t mean to be late BUT…” Please try not to. Saying “but” in this way can not only put the employee back on the defensive, it negates everything that comes before it, including the faith you just expressed in the employee to change his behavior.

R – Request

“I need you to be logged in and answering phones by 8 a.m.”

It’s important to be specific here. Notice it doesn’t simply say, “Be on time from now on.” So, for example, instead of saying, “Have a better attitude.” You might say, “I need you to stop making negative comments in front of the patients. If you’re unhappy, please come talk to me or the office manager instead.”

Why should I use the FIRR Method?

The FIRR Method has several advantages over other forms of conflict resolution. Defensiveness can put a stop to any progress made during discussions about problematic behavior, and the FIRR Method is designed to lower defenses. Also, it acknowledges the humanity of your employee and lets them know that you believe they can make progress at their job. Most importantly, though, this method clarifies expectations for employees whose performance falls short, and, by letting your employee know exactly what needs to change, you provide them with a map that can help them get back on the right road.

What if this employee can’t be reasoned with?

While it’s certainly possible that the employee in question is incapable or unwilling to change their behavior, remember, no one wants to be bad at their job. It’s highly unlikely even the worst employees roll out of bed thinking that they’re going to screw up at work and irritate their boss. On the contrary, most people want to be good at their jobs and be praised for their work. Because of that, it’s always worth treating the employee with respect, asking them to make specific changes and making an effort to model the professional communication skills you want all your employees to use.

Worst case scenario, even if the employee doesn’t improve and winds up getting fired, the FIRR Method is designed to protect your practice. By clarifying expectations and making specific requests for change, you create a legal shield that can fend off frivolous wrongful termination suits. Whether reasoning with your employee works or not, the protections the FIRR Method provides your practice makes it worth the effort.

Document after every session!

Each time you use the FIRR Method, take time to document the interaction to take advantage of the legal protections afforded by this method. You can do this using CEDR’s free corrective action form… This text opens a new tab to the form…, but whatever method you choose, stick to the facts and avoid emotions. Write down what the employee did or didn’t do, the impact of that behavior, the stated expectations of his or her position, your expectations for the future and what the employee can do moving forward to meet those expectations.

As members of the AADOM tribe, you have access to additional FIRR Method resources through your free HR Vault membership. To learn more about the FIRR method and to find corrective action forms to help you document your coaching, simply log in to your HR Vault account… This text opens a new tab to the HR Vault…. From the dashboard, click on Resources, then “Get management tools here!”

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