Difficult Conversations at Work

Your Five-Step Approach to Difficult Work Conversations

Taking on a leadership or supervisory role at work means becoming adept at conflict management. Having difficult conversations with employees and team members is part of the job. Yes, it can be uncomfortable but unfortunately it is a vital part of leadership success is being able to communicate with your team in all circumstances. Hard conversations are difficult but sometimes vital to business success. Here we’ve got five straightforward steps for appropriately handling difficult conversations at work.

1. Prepare and Communicate in Advance
One-to-one meetings are the best way to discuss difficult issues and hold hard conversations. Organising and one-to-one means you can set the talking points in advance, allowing your employee to know what the point of the meeting is and giving them time to prepare. If you can provide an agenda this can be helpful too. As a minimum, be sure to give your employee enough notice of your one-to-one and don’t expect them to be ready if you simply call them over unannounced. If you are trying to keep emotions in check and conflict to a minimum, you must give your employees fair notice.

2. Focus on Facts
Difficult conversations are often due to emotions running high. One-to-one meetings can be due to all kinds of workplace disputes from underperformance to conflict between colleagues. To prepare properly and exert good leadership you must focus on facts, and not your feelings in relation to any given situation or individual. Put aside anything that may be influenced by bias or preconceptions and take it back to the facts of the matter. Make sure your notes are based upon fact and be ready to share only evidence-based information during your one-to-one. Employees should not be faced with hearsay or assumptions when discussing difficult workplace matters.

3. Promote and Provide Honesty
A sense of trust and respect is vital in the workplace, and it should go both ways. Regular feedback exchanges and an open-door policy can help employees recognise you are one of them, and someone on their side and open to discussion. Breaking the ice when it comes to difficult discussions can be easily solved by being open. Let your team know you are open to difficult discussion and not afraid to tackle issues that people may find awkward or hard.

4. Don’t Expect 100% Agreement
A difficult conversation very rarely ends in complete agreement. Instead of pushing for consensus and complete agreement, aim for understanding and acceptance. Fostering a sense of understanding so the work environment is improved is more important than trying to convince everyone to agree and think the same. You should recognise and accept your employees have different opinions and thought processes and that is completely fine. More than this, you should make an effort to understand and show you care about the thoughts and feelings of others, fostering a positive and collaborative work environment.

5. Reach Solutions Together
You laying down the law and making demands will not leave a positive impression on your employees. While you should absolutely make sure workplace goals are met, finding solutions together is the most effective way to calm tensions and minimise disruption. Become a team player rather than just a leader and put yourself at the heart of a team that values collaboration and supporting each other. A successful end to a difficult conversation is a solution both parties are satisfied with.

Improving Workplace Communications for Better Team Management

Investing in appropriate management and supervisory training can help ensure anyone in a leadership role has the skills necessary to succeed. Conflict management is a vital element of any leadership role, so it is important to find a successful way of managing difficult conversations.