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Top Tips For Having A Difficult Conversation

What is a difficult conversation and why might we find the prospect of having this discussion so daunting?

It is true that for many of us we will avoid having a difficult conversations whilst in the workplace, however this can and will ultimately cause a decrease in team morale and can lead to a perceived air of toxicity in the working environment. All of which will impact the overall engagement and success of your teams.

Gwyneth Paltrow has reportedly been quoted as once saying ‘’You are not learning anything unless you are having the difficult conversations’’.

A difficult conversation could be anything from approaching that employee who consistently arrives late to their desk, an accusation from a team member that an employee is continually swearing at their co-workers, or explaining to your 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!

All situations require sensitivity and tact, with a calm approach that is consistent with all team members. Managers that shy away from having difficult conversations will damage their leadership credibility and trust of their teams. Managers should be the shining light, leading by example, and approach these conversations in a timely and appropriate manner.

Our quick-fire top tips to embrace these discussions are as follows.

  • Do not shy away from it- burying heads in the sand will not make the problem go away and could create further issues down the line.
  • Be prepared and have your facts in order.
  • Have you referred to your policies and procedures – i.e. if it is a discussion regards absence? Are your following the correct process. You do not want to inadvertently fall foul of policy.
  • Plan a quiet space that is private and allow time for the discussion.
  • Listen and ensure to ask open questions and avoid making assumptions. Hear what your employee has to say and if an adjournment or break is needed to gather your thoughts then take that opportunity.
  • Determine if the discussion will require a follow up. What is the resolution and conclusion? Confirm any decision and outcomes in writing.
  • Consider the use of an ‘’incident form’’- this would be a document that your team member would prepare in advance of the meeting
  • What do they understand of the issue at hand? What do they think the consequence could/should be? This allows the employee to take accountability for their actions
  • You could consider drawing an impact map with the employee – how does their action impact on others- what is the ripple effect of their behaviour? Again, placing accountability and ownership with the employee.

These suggestions are far from exhaustive but provide an initial suggestion as to what key points could be considered when entering a difficult conversation.

HR Star 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 have difficult conversations.

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