The Secret to Disarming Employee Excuses


Excuses can occur in every type of supervisor/employee interaction. Examples include a supervisor:

  • Giving constructive feedback to an employee about some aspect of the employee’s performance
  • Coaching an employee to help the employee improve performance in a specific area
  • Discussing an employee’s past performance during a performance appraisal discussion

Excuses can also arise in interactions between peers and between a team leader and a team member. In short, excuses occur in many different types of interaction situations and on an almost daily basis.

Despite their frequency, few supervisors know how to handle excuses effectively. The three most common and ineffective ways supervisors deal with excuses are: (1) accept the excuse outright without question, (2) discount the excuse by suggesting it’s not important, or (3) argue about the legitimacy of the excuse.

In this session, you will learn to recognize and categorize employee excuses into one of four types and guidelines for responding to each type. A job aid also will be provided listing the four categories of excuses and a definition of each, sample excuse statements, and guidelines for how to respond to each type of excuse.


Attendees will learn:

  • A 7-step process for conducting coaching discussions.
  • The three most common and ineffective ways supervisors deal with excuses.
  • The four types of employee excuses and how to recognize each type.
  • Two techniques for quickly and permanently disarming employee excuses and getting a performance discussion back on track.


Who should attend:

  • Training and HR professionals
  • Independent consultants
  • Managers delivering training



ken-phillips-biopicKen Phillips delivers all programs and workshops in his signature style: professional, engaging, and approachable.

Ken is the founder and CEO of Phillips Associates and the creator and chief architect of the Predictive Learning Analytics™ (PLA) learning evaluation methodology. He has more than 30-years’ experience designing learning instruments and assessments and has authored more than a dozen published learning instruments. Ken also regularly speaks to Association for Talent Development (ATD) groups, university classes, and corporate L&D groups. Since 2008, he has presented at the ATD International Conference and since 2013 at the annual Training Conference and Expo on topics related to measurement and evaluation of learning.

Before pursuing a Ph.D. in the combined fields of organization behavior and educational administration at Northwestern University, Ken held management positions with two colleges and two national corporations. Also, he has written articles that have appeared in td magazine, Training Industry Magazine and Training Today, and is a contributing author to five books in the L&D field.

Ken earned the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP now CPTD) credential from ATD in 2006 as a pilot pioneer and recertified in 2009, 2012, 2015, and 2018.

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