Editor's note: Inc.com columnist Alison Green answers questions about workplace and management issues -- everything from how to deal with a micromanaging boss to how to talk to someone on your team about body odor.

A reader writes:

I manage an employee who is smart, attentive, and dedicated to the work she does. Overall, she's amazing and has a strong work ethic, the kind of driven personality anyone would love to have on their team.

Except for when she is stressed or feels pressure from difficult clients. Then all hell breaks loose. Her communication moves towards emails only and she comes off as being rude or dismissive. Her ability to pay attention to details disappears as well. She starts giving out wrong information to contractors, sending them to the wrong locations at the wrong times or not staffing them properly, leading to more upset clients.

We've had her work with different teams and she excels for a while but when she feels the pressure again, she just collapses. I've tried stepping in to handle the situations with difficult clients and contractors to alleviate that stress on her, but it¹s hard to know when she is feeling stressed out since her communication all but shuts down. She is a strong employee otherwise and I feel like having someone directly supervising her every move may come off as insulting to her, but I don't see any other way. How can I help her?

Have you talked to her and explicitly named what you're seeing and the problems it causes? The first step here is to say something like this: "Most of the time your work is excellent. But when you're feeling stressed, you communicate far less, come across as brusque or even rude, and start missing details. I know this isn't going to be easy to fix, but it's impacting your work and your co-workers, and we have to get it under control. I can get you extra support in those times, but I need to know you're feeling crunched. Let's talk about an action plan to use the next time you're feeling that way."

Sometimes naming the problem, describing its impact, and calling it out as an area that must be fixed can get the person to take the feedback seriously -- and managers often aren't as explicit about this type of problem as they need to be. 

From there, the next time you see her communication trailing off, proactively check in with her to find out what's going on. Tell her you're seeing signs of the problem you talked about, and that you want to work with her to control it this time. That might mean managing her more closely during that period, taking work off her plate, or even just reminding her of the commitment she made to work on this.

If that kind of coaching doesn't work, you'll need to treat this as a serious performance issue -- meaning at a minimum that it could impact her assignments, performance assessments, and future raises (and you should let her know that). If the problems are serious enough and resistant to coaching, you also may need to consider whether it makes sense to keep her in the role long-term. But since she's otherwise a strong employee, first see if you can get her where you need her to be with a bit of extra support. Sometimes explicit, ongoing feedback will do the trick. 

Want to submit a question of your own? Send it to alison@askamanager.org.