How to Have Difficult Conversations at Work

The workplace is filled with complexities and difficult conversations are a part of work life. Whether it’s speaking to an employee about their work output or addressing a complaint raised against them, it’s safe to say that this is no easy task. As difficult as they may be, they’re necessary to ensure operations continue smoothly and problems can be tackled proactively. Here’s what you can do when dealing with difficult conversations at work.

Plan and begin right

Compartmentalize the message you want to put across so that you have a clear idea before the conversation begins. Don’t focus on deficit feedback, but instead adopt a strength based approach so that you don’t put the other person in defensive mode. You don’t have to go into it with the mind set of an argument in order to stay assertive. The conversation is likely to remain open and effective if you start it right. Try to also look at the situation from the other person’s perspective in order to get a better understanding of it.

Ask questions

Don’t assume you know everything about the situation when you sit down to have the conversation. Ask questions about the concerned matter and give the other person a chance to ask you questions as well. Remember, you’re not there because you enjoy having these conversations – you’re there because having the conversation will help to add value so focus on how both of you can address the problem. Acknowledge their side and then express yours.

Speak objectively and stick to the facts

Don’t get carried away by your emotions, even if the problem being addressed seems like a big one. Speak in a direct manner without beating around the bush or blurring the message that you want to put across. Adopting a strength based approach doesn’t mean you need to sugar-coat your message. Stick to the facts and make sure you’re ready with examples and instances of the behaviour in question so that you aren’t just making statements, but you also have solid proof to back up what you’re saying. Always make sure to communicate respectfully no matter what the situation is.

Provide an alternative and work on solving the issue

While discussing an issue, bring up examples of what would’ve been expected in a similar situation and offer them a means to understand what is expected of them and their role in the organization. Once the issue has been discussed in detail, don’t come up with a solution on your own. Allow them to feel like they’re a part of the process and work together to agree upon ways that the current issue can be tackled. You don’t want to propose something and have them agree to it only to be disappointed in a few months from unrealistic expectations that you held.

Discuss in a realistic manner how the current issue can be dealt with and work together to develop goals and solve the problem.

Follow up

You’ll want to make sure the conversation was a fruitful one so follow up and check if the goals agreed upon are being worked towards and if there’s been a change resulting from the conversation.

Remember, while you may be dreading having that difficult conversation at work, you and the organization are better off once you’ve had it – so put these pointers into action the next time you’re set to have a difficult conversation at work.

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