How To Master Difficult Conversations With Employees

employee difficult conversation

Not many people are fans of having difficult conversations, whether they happen inside or outside of the workplace.

Within the workplace, conflict is unavoidable. From inappropriate language to poor hygiene, insubordination to sheer laziness, there are a multitude of behaviours and attitudes that contribute to a poor work environment. While all of these issues require attention, finding the right way to broach an issue is key.

Managing these tense conversations will ensure that you reduce employee turnover; employees are much less on edge when they do not fear conflict with managers. As a result, this will lead to a much more positive environment that encourages employee retention.

Do Not Delay

Fortune favours the bold – it isn’t just a clever saying. Waiting to have difficult conversations not only delays the inevitable, but it allows behaviours or attitudes to worsen. Oftentimes, managers try to drop subtle “hints” to employees rather than being direct. Staying direct and to the point will prevent miscommunication, and will keep things on track.

Set The Tone

Since you are arranging the conversation, you are responsible for setting the tone. Pick a place that is both appropriate and comfortable. Having the conversation in front of other employees could embarrass your staff, and it will distract from the matter at hand. If it is a serious issue, take them out of the office or into a separate room. If it is a minor issue, go for a walk or pull them aside, but remember to keep it positive and brief.

Be Curious

While you are confronting an employee, it is still a two-way conversation. Actively listening to feedback and questions is crucial in conveying respect. Although you shouldn’t obsessively worry about likability when a serious issue is at hand, remaining empathetic is crucial. It will let your employee know that you still caring and supportive, in spite of the conflict.

Keep Calm

Dealing with a major conflict can be extremely emotional. You may feel angry, frustrated, or letdown. These emotionally charged conversations can get out of hand quickly, which can lead to you saying things you don’t entirely mean or that you would prefer to hold back. Rather than letting your emotions get the best of you, try writing everything that you want to address down beforehand. While you may not read what you wrote in front of your employee, as that may feel forced, it will help keep the conversation under control. Try to stick to the topic at hand, rather than allowing your feelings to guide the discussion.

Keep Positive

Expect the best. Although it is easier said than done, staying positive gives you a far better chance of having a successful exchange. It can be hard to stay uplifted during a conflict, but envisioning a successful outcome can help direct the conversation. Rather than focusing solely on the problem, this thinking will allow you to have a much more constructive approach.