5 Reasons Your Employees Ignore Your Coaching

5 Reasons Your Employees Ignore Your Coaching

Have you ever had (what you thought was) a great coaching conversation—your employee seems to get it—but fifteen minutes later they’re back to their old habits?

So you give them more coaching, this time “louder” either literally, or through progressive discipline. But even so, nothing changes.

What’s going on?

Most employees don’t come to work hoping to screw up.

They want to improve. So why does so much coaching fall on deaf ears?

5 Reasons Your Coaching Falls on Deaf Ears

When we ask employees in our training programs why it’s hard to hear their manager’s feedback, here’s what they tell us.

1. “I’m overwhelmed.”

“I’m trying to do better, I really am. But it’s all just too much. Every time we meet, he’s giving me something else to work on. No matter what I do, I can’t seem to get it right, so I just ignore him and do the best I can.”

If you want real change, focus on one behavior at a time.

2. “I’m watching how it REALLY works around here.”

“My boss keeps telling me my customer courtesy credits are too high—that I’m costing the business too much money. So I stopped giving credits. But when my customers get mad, they escalate to my supervisor.  And guess, what? She ALWAYS gives them the credit! She’s the hero, and the credit goes against my numbers and I still end up on progressive action. I can’t win. So now I’m back to giving them the credit.”

If you want your employees to hear your coaching, be sure you’re following your own standards.

If there are reasons you make exceptions, be sure you clearly differentiate and explain the thought process, so they can follow consistent parameters.

3. “I don’t know how.”

“My manager says I need to be more strategic. That sounds awesome. I’m all for that. But what does that mean? How do I do that?”

Be sure your coaching is specific and actionable. Explain what success looks like in terms of behaviors.

4. “I disagree.”

“My supervisor keeps asking me to do this, but I just don’t think it’s right. It will have a negative impact on MY customers. I’ve tried to explain my concerns, but she just keeps citing policy, and that this decision is ‘above my pay grade.'”

Sure, we all have to implement policies we may not agree with, the important factor here is to really listen to the concerns and explain why. 

AND to help challenge the status quo when it doesn’t make sense. 

5. “I’m confused.”

“I’m not really sure what’s important, because everything seems to be. I feel like I’m being pulled in a million directions.”

Help your employees sort through the noise and stay focused on what matters most.

Coaching is an art. If you’re not getting the results you want, talk to your employee. “I’ve noticed, that even though we’ve talked about this before, you’re continuing to ______ (insert behavior here.) I really care about you and want you to be successful. What’s going on? Why do you think this is still happening?”

And really listen to their response.

A Few More Articles to Help Your Coaching and Performance Feedback

Fast Company: This 7 Step Guide For Dishing Out Feedback is Completely Idiot-Proof

What Do I Do if They Cry?

Pushover No More: It’s Never Too Late to Start Practicing Team Accountability

Posted in Winning Well and tagged , , .

Karin Hurt David Dye

Karin Hurt and David Dye help leaders achieve breakthrough results without losing their soul. They’re the founders of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm. They're the award-winning authors of Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul. Karin is a top leadership consultant and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. David Dye is a former executive, elected official, and president of Let's Grow Leaders. Karin and David are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells - building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.


  1. I’d also add something about the environment and expectations in here. If the team or workplace continues to do things as they always do, it’s so much harder for a team member to make meaningful change happen. Sometimes the status quo is valued because change is disruptive or might not work out – those expectations should be coached widely I think.

    • Thank you Steve! So agree– a great addition. If people feel like there is no need to change (or no one around them is trying to improve) it’s easier to coast along and ignore even good feedback.

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