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How to Navigate a Difficult Conversation

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How to Navigate a Difficult Conversation

By The Employer Group - Mar 22, 2024

If you have direct reports, then you most likely dread having difficult conversations with your employees. Yet, having difficult conversations is crucial when it comes to working well with others, creating a better work environment, and increasing employee engagement and productivity. It is imperative that we understand that not all conversations will lead to a solution and that is okay.

A difficult conversation tends to go best when you think about it as just a normal conversation. It is easier said than done, but it is important to recognize the role you play in this conversation and how your approach will affect the employee’s response.

Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Plan to meet privately
    • Don’t delay a difficult conversation.
    • Consider a time that will allow for minimal distractions and will give you enough time to discuss and answer any questions.
    • Ensure that other employees are not involved in this conversation and/or are affected by it.
    • Prepare two documents: your talking points and the memo that you will present to the employee.
  2. Share facts, not conclusions
    • Identify the situation and use facts in support of your case.
    • State the impact that their actions had on a project, the team, and the company.
    • Set clear expectations.
    • Discuss the consequences – positive and negative.
  3. Do not take things personally
    • There is a possibility that the person you need to speak with is not aware of their actions that have prompted the meeting.
  4. Demonstrate control
    • Avoid an emotional delivery, which may appear aggressive or insulting.
    • Your behavior will affect the interaction, therefore try to remain calm, respectful, and objective.

Whether it is performance or misconduct, avoiding difficult conversations can have a negative effect on other employees, productivity, engagement, and retention. Remember that the goal of this conversation is to provide the employee with the opportunity to make the needed improvements to succeed. You should continually affirm your belief in them and their ability to comply with expectations.



This information does not constitute legal advice.

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