Many managers find it difficult to have conversations with their people that have the potential to lead to confrontation. It’s something that no one looks forward to, but it has to be done to ensure the team, the organisation and the customers are receiving the level of service they deserve.
A difficult conversation may require you to confront unacceptable behaviour, low productivity or effort, or discuss personal issues with a colleague, going beyond the usual work conversations. Use the framework below to better enable you to navigate these challenging conversations.
Before you conduct a difficult conversation, it’s important that you prepare for it. Think about your own perspective on the issue and make notes so you can keep the conversation on track.
Consider the following questions during your preparation:
What is the purpose? Determine and write down the ideal outcome you would like to achieve. This will help you to enter the conversation with a clear purpose.
Do you have an emotional attachment? Consider whether you have an emotional attachment to the situation. If you do, consider bringing a neutral colleague into the conversation to help mediate it.
How might you influence the conversation? Did you know that your own attitude towards the situation, as well as your perception of it, can influence the conversation? If you have been dreading the conversation or thinking it will be difficult you may struggle to conduct it effectively.
What might the person be thinking? It’s vital that you consider the other person. Are they fully aware of the problem? What might be an ideal outcome from their perspective? Write down some questions you could draw on to explore the issue from the other person’s perspective.
Once you have prepared your plan for the difficult conversation, the next step is to prepare the meeting itself. Reserve a private meeting room which the employee will be comfortable in, provide a glass of water and make sure there are tissues available (just in case). Most importantly make sure you are in the right state of mind:
You can use the following steps to open a difficult conversation and steer it in a collaborative direction.
When emotions are high, people do not have as much capacity for calm reasoning and logic. It is important that you address the emotions first, so the employee can then move on to more logical, reasoned thinking.
Having that first difficult conversation is only the beginning. The employee needs time to consider the conversation and implement the action steps you agreed together. To ensure there is lasting, positive change we recommend you: