042: When to Have the ‘Come to Jesus’ Meeting With Your Employee

What happens when you’ve had multiple coaching discussions with your employee, and you haven’t seen any progress made against the expectations that you previously set for them? 

These situations are never easy, but the best way to deal with them is to have a particular and direct conversation with your employee. In business, we call it the ‘Come To Jesus Meeting.’

And fortunately, there are some efficient action steps you can take to have this meeting with your employee.

But when is the best time to have the ‘Come To Jesus Meeting” with this employee? And how do you approach it? Timing and preparation are crucial indeed, and as a manager, it can be challenging to get these aspects right.

Discussions like these tend to be delayed, and sometimes you might not be considering the whole picture and your role in it. Perhaps you’re unsure whether you invested the right amount of time in coaching or providing the right resources to your employee.

In this episode of the Leadership Jam Session Podcast, Kevin Manning and Steve Tuciarone join me to talk about everything you need to know to have a successful ‘Come To Jesus Meeting’ with your employee.

Why timing is key when having this discussion 

The first and probably most important thing to understand is that having this one-way dialogue doesn’t happen right out of the gate. In most cases, you’d have numerous conversations along the way with your employee before you even get to that point.

During these conversations, your goal is to encourage your employee to take the necessary action steps towards their optimal performance. You can even set up an improvement plan for them, especially if the issue concerns their skillset.

But timing can be tricky; there are times when you may need to have this ‘Come to Jesus’ meeting with your employee sooner. Perhaps your team’s performance is hindered by this employee’s actions, or an unexpected situation requires you to address these issues with your employee much faster.

As leaders, we often delay these discussions for many reasons, but it’s essential to know that, more often than not, having this meeting sooner will save you more problems down the road. 

You need to develop the ability to assess when to approach this situation as a gradual process and when to act quickly.

How leaders approach a ‘Come to Jesus’ meeting

When you get to a point when you need to have this discussion, there are a couple of things to remember:

1.- Be prepared

By making sure you have all the facts laid out, you can effectively tackle denial or evasive responses. When your points are irrefutable, your employee won’t have much choice but to accept their shortcomings and take action. 

But having a clear understanding of the situation will also allow you to determine whether you have provided the right tools and coaching for your employee. Responsibility goes both ways!

2.- Be eloquent

Using powerful language is important. You need to make your employee understand what is at stake and invite them to reflect on their performance and attitude towards their work environment. 

When you place this responsibility on them, it sends a compelling message; they are accountable for their actions, and they need to understand why and when these changes need to occur.

Conclusion: What to expect from this meeting

When you have invested time and resources into an employee whose performance is faltering, the most intelligent strategy you can adopt is to lead them in the right direction again instead of going through the hassles of hiring, coaching, and training a new employee.

Keeping this in mind,  there are usually three outcomes you can expect when having the ‘Come to Jesus’ meeting with an employee :

  • Your employee understands your message and takes the necessary actions to improve their performance.


  • You may have to go back to that discussion several months later. 


  • Suppose the discussion doesn’t yield the intended results. In that case, you’ll have to work with your manager and HR business partner to map out a performance improvement plan for your employee.

No matter the outcome of the meeting, your responsibility is to get them back on track as much as possible by making sure they have all the necessary coaching and tools for that purpose.

Key Takeaways 

– What is the ‘Come To Jesus’ meeting? (00.00)

– Why this discussion is a gradual process (02:20)

– How leaders approach a one-way conversation (05:30)

– Why discussions like these are often delayed (08:08)

– The importance of preparing (14:20)

– How to get your employee back on track (18:02)

– Episode summary (20:07)


Leadership Resources

How are the leaders at all levels of management tackling the toughest challenges each day? Learn more at: https://sartoleadershipgroup.com

About the author, Rob

Rob Fonte is the founder and President of Sarto Leadership Group, whose reputation has been built on being a transformational leader and inspirational coach with a passion for developing others. His twenty-year career spans across multiple disciplines including leading award-winning sales teams. Rob is an academically trained Executive Coach certified by The University of Texas and the International Coach Federation.