All resources

How to handle difficult conversations at work

It’s true for many of us that having difficult conversations in the workplace is uncomfortable and so is something we try to avoid. However, this can and will ultimately cause a decrease in team morale and create a perceived air of toxicity in the workplace, which will impact the overall engagement and success of your teams.

The truth is, that whilst having difficult conversations is uncomfortable, they are a necessary part of working well with others. And, for leaders especially, reaching an understanding with your employees is often the first step towards creating a better work environment where everyone is delivering their best.

A difficult conversation could be anything from approaching an employee who consistently arrives late, to explaining to an employee why they have not successfully passed their probation period.

The scenarios are endless and varied, and no two will ever be quite the same! However, each and every scenario requires sensitivity and tact, and a calm approach that is consistent with all team members. Other tips to embrace a difficult conversation are as follows:

Don’t bury your head in the sand
Burying heads in the sand will not make the problem go away and could create further issues down the line. Make sure that you are approaching these conversations in a timely and appropriate manner.

Refer to policies and procedures You don’t want to inadvertently fall foul of policy. So, before you enter into the conversation, have you referred to your policies and procedures? If it is a conversation about absence, for example, are you following the correct process?

Allow time and privacy
Plan a quiet space that is private to have the conversation, and make sure you allow plenty of time for the conversation to be had.

Ask and listen
Remember to ask open questions and avoid making assumptions. Hear what your employee has to say, including what they understand of the issue at hand and what they think the consequence could or should be.

Determine next steps
Decide whether the conversation will require a follow up, and confirm any decision and outcomes in writing. What is the resolution and conclusion?

If you feel as though you need a little bit more training and support when it comes to having difficult conversations in the workplace, get in touch with our team. We can work with you to implement policies, procedures and project offerings to support you and your managers in developing the skills and providing the tools to approach these types of discussions.

Share the knowledge...