Many people that have a difficult conversation don’t provide the clarity of what they want or what they would like to change, leaving it up to the person receiving the information to work it out for themselves. Difficult conversations become even more difficult when the delivery is muddled. After all, tough conversations “are not black swans,” says Jean-Francois Manzoni, professor of human resources and organizational development at INSEAD. They had a great talk and even ended the conversation with a hug. If you’re disciplining an employee for poor team performance, explain that to them and also talk about what it would look like when team relations are strong. In this situation, take a step back and remove the relationship from the equation. If you manage people, work in Human Resources, or care about your friends at work, chances are good that one day you will need to hold a difficult conversation. If, for example, a colleague comes to you with an issue that might lead to a hard conversation, excuse yourself —get a cup of coffee or take a brief stroll around the office — and collect your thoughts. “I grew up in a military environment where there’s no bluff,” she says. The worst thing you can do “is to ask your counterpart to have sympathy for you,” she says. interactive scenarios to help you practice your conversation skills; downloadable resources and links to further information. Change your mindset If you’re gearing up for a conversation you’ve labeled “difficult,” you’re more likely to feel nervous and upset about it beforehand. How should you prepare for this kind of discussion? If you’re telling an employee that they aren’t getting a raise, explain why and let them know what they need to work on to make that raise a possibility. The ability to tackle tough issues with tact and respect is an important skill for any professional. From delivering performance reviews to saying no to extra projects, difficult conversations are a regular part of work life. In life, work, and our career, we run into challenges with people which we often choose not to address because we don’t like conflict. What the Experts Say “We’ve all had bad experiences with these kind of conversations in the past,” says Holly Weeks, the author of Failure to Communicate. The tricky 10 - britain’s most difficult conversations occur in the workplace. This is not the time for feedback sandwiches or an excess of compliments. She told the employee that he was “not a good fit.” She explained that the company would keep him on until the end of the month and then provided details about the severance package. We tend indeed to … Do Put Together a Conversational Strategy. He was initially defensive, but by the second time they spoke, he had come around and agreed there was a problem. “We kept kicking the can down the road, but I realized I was going to have to be the bad guy.” She was going to have to lay him off. This is where your power lies. The survey also found that the four most difficult conversations were all work-based scenarios (see below); personal topics such as sex and money come further down the list. The majority of the work in any conflict conversation is work you do on yourself. Tabatha dreaded delivering the news. “When you’re at work, you’re at work. This can make you loyal to a pre-determined agenda, rather than what the other person is saying and the organic, co-created development of the conversation. Expressing emotions openly is difficult for many of us. You need to be strong for the people around you and take your feelings out of it.”, Her words were simple. By cultivating a culture of trust and openness and fostering strong communication practices, you can successfully navigate tricky topics and help your team thrive. You’re not telling your boss: no; you’re offering up an alternate solution. Confrontation suggests meeting someone face-to-face with hostile intent. And, what does the other person think is the problem?” If you aren’t sure of the other person’s viewpoint, “acknowledge that you don’t know and ask,” she says. No matter how well the conversation begins, you’ll need to stay in charge of yourself, your purpose and your emotional energy. “It might not necessarily be pleasant, but you can manage to deliver difficult news in a courageous, honest, fair way.” At the same time, “do not emote,” says Weeks. You want to think of what you’re going to say, as well as anticipate how the other person might react. Your counterpart doesn’t know “his lines,” so when he “goes off script, you have no forward motion” and the exchange “becomes weirdly artificial.” Your strategy for the conversation should be “flexible” and contain “a repertoire of possible responses,” says Weeks. The reality is that difficult conversations are inevitable in the workplace, and it is important that they are conducted well. “Learn how to disarm yourself by imitating what you see,” she says. Difficult conversations become necessary for a variety of reasons. “It was a process.”, Before even broaching the subject with the employee, she reminded herself of her good intentions. When having a difficult conversation, be direct and get to the point quickly. Asking questions helps the other person process what’s happened, and it allows you to clarify and solidify details of the conversation. Part of active listening working well in difficult conversations is avoiding planning too much. Be compassionate “Experience tells us that these kinds of conversations often lead to [strained] working relationships, which can be painful,” says Manzoni. This is especially important when the conversation is with an employee who you care greatly for or work closely with. Recently, for instance, she had to tell a successful, longtime employee that his position was being eliminated. It can help if you simply look at things from a fact based standpoint, and focus solely on that. “There were also proximity issues — his team was on one side of the country but he was on the other side. But it’s not always easy to have difficult conversations. Next time you have to have a difficult conversation, keep these points in mind to ensure that it's productive and well received. If you aren't sure that the other person fully comprehended the conversation, ask clarifying questions to check their understanding. The key is to learn how to handle them in a way that produces “a better outcome: less pain for you, and less pain for the person you’re talking to,” he says. How do you find the right words in the moment? You have to think: ‘What’s the best way for this person to hear the message?’”, Her first step was sitting down with the employee to ask how he thought things were going. When approaching conversations about racial bias, gender and social issues, it can be challenging to know what to say, and when and how to say it. “We had to move on.”. Having difficult conversations may never be easy, but there are ways to make those conversations both productive and as painless as possible. “If you listen to what the other person is saying, you’re more likely to address the right issues and the conversation always ends up being better,” he says. Conflict is scary, but uncomfortable conversations can get us to a resolution (if you listen carefully to what is really being said). All rights reserved. This is the part of the difficult conversation where you discuss what it is you would like to change in the future. You want to have the conversation in an even tone and keep it professional. Both of these feedback techniques will mask the point of the conversation and lessen its impact. We have produced a 13 minute recorded PowerPoint presentation to support you when having difficult conversations at work, during the Coronavirus pandemic. Your managers should be able to be pragmatic and ensure any conversations with an individual employee remains focused and productive. A difficult or challenging conversation is a conversation where you have to manage emotions and information in a sensitive way in order to: address poor performance or conduct deal with personal problems investigate complaints/deal with grievances You must outline the critique and the reason you’re having the conversation, but don’t stop there. Tabatha says that while the employee “wasn’t happy” he took the lay-off “like a trooper.”, Even though she didn’t show her emotion during the meeting, Tabatha still says the conversation “lingers” in her mind today. “We’re a small company and all really close—you know about people’s families and you hear about their vacations. Case Study #2: Put yourself in the right frame of mind and show empathy As Chief Personnel Officer at Booz Allen Hamilton, Betty Thompson, is accustomed to having hard conversations. Leaders must gather as much detail as possible about what the other person is experiencing. You’ll also want to talk about the outcome you’d like to see. Before you broach the topic, Weeks recommends asking yourself two questions: “What is the problem? Apply the difficult conversation formula. If, for instance, you’re laying off someone you’ve worked with for a long time, “You could say, ‘I have written what I think is a strong recommendation for you; would you like to see it?’” If you need to tell your boss that you can’t take on a particular assignment, suggest a viable alternative. “You need to have the right energy going into something like this. Focus On Creating Value. “He knew that I cared,” she says. This technique also works well in the moment. Difficult conversations become even more difficult when the delivery is muddled. She and her team tried a number of interventions — including having him work with a professional coach — but after six months, she needed to take action. The actual words you use during the conversation matter. Acknowledge your counterpart’s perspective Don’t go into a difficult conversation with a my-way-or-the-highway attitude. Nothing is worse than delivering a critique and leaving it just at that. We have provided some general principles around effective communication and have looked specifically at how you might use cues to provide more focus to your conversations. “Over time, his role had become less relevant to the organization,” she says. Clearly explain why you're having the conversation to help them fully understand where you’re coming from. Do Share Your Feelings. “Saying, ‘I hear you,’ as you’re fiddling with your smartphone is insulting.”, Give something back If you’re embarking on a conversation that will “put the other person in a difficult spot or take something away something from them,” ask yourself: “Is there something I can give back?” says Weeks. Resources to download: A manager's guide to difficult conversations in the workplace ( 52KB) ( 275KB) An employer's guide to resolving workplace issues … Slowing your cadence and pausing before responding to the other person “gives you a chance to find the right words” and tends to “defuse negative emotion” from your counterpart, he says. Show your counterpart “that you care,” says Manzoni. Don’t let your emotions dictate your delivery. All Rights Reserved, This is a BETA experience. Even if the conversation is to fire an employee, you should still offer a suggestion that will help them improve in their next job. Not every difficult conversation is going to be “confrontational” … If you see they’re really struggling with what you’ve said, pause for a minute while they collect themselves. While it might seem like you’re being too harsh diving right into the critique, you’re actually doing the other person a favor. If you’re gearing up for a conversation you’ve labeled “difficult,” you’re more likely to feel nervous and upset about it beforehand. … “Think about why you had certain reactions, and what you might have said differently.” Weeks also recommends observing how others successfully cope with these situations and emulating their tactics. These can take place in our personal lives with our families and friends and also in the workplace with our colleagues. You may opt-out by. This is not a conversation you want to have in the spur of the moment. Don’t avoid difficult conversations at work, it’s career limiting, go and face the conflict. Think of the questions they might ask and have answers prepared. “I really liked this person,” she says. If you get emotional, so will the other person. Having difficult conversations is hard to do successfully under the best of circumstances. Take a beat and alter your mindset. Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own. “He wasn’t right for the position he was in.”. “Express your interest in understanding how the other person feels,” and “take time to process the other person’s words and tone,” he adds. Ashira Prossack is a coach, speaker, and former competitive athlete helping business leaders unlock their full potential through a sports-based approach to professional development. Offer as many concrete examples as possible so the person understands you're not just pulling things out of thin air. As a result, we tend to avoid them. “I wanted to know what frustrations he was having,” she says. The more prepared you are, the easier it will be to stay even tempered and not get flustered, and therefore deliver a more solid critique. Seventy percent of employees avoid difficult conversations in the workplace, according to a study by career-coaching startup Bravely, this can lower morale and cause a toxic work environment. It just wasn’t going to work anymore.”, Betty decided that the message would be best delivered not in one conversation, but in a series of multiple discussions over a couple of months. The Most Difficult Conversations You Have Ever Had At Work Readers share stories of weird, scary, and embarrassing office conversations. Don’t say things like, ‘I feel so bad about saying this,’ or ‘This is really hard for me to do,’” she says. Addressing issues with coworkers, managing a misunderstanding and navigating conflict are best met with the right communication skills. “Be constructive,” says Manzoni. But that’s not the right answer. But we’re not asking managers to just have those conversations. Sometimes these occur because expectations were not met. Your language should be “simple, clear, direct, and neutral,” she adds. Care, ” she adds Rights Reserved, this is a BETA experience more clarity you can do is. 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