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How Do You Approach Difficult Conversations With Staff?

How you approach difficult conversations with your staff is important.  While they can be an opportunity for growth and improvement for both you and the person you’re having the conversation with, they’ll also set the tone for the future of communication within your company.  Whether addressing negative comments, giving constructive feedback or tackling another issue, we want to help you define some key ways to handle them effectively, with special focus on conversations regarding performance.

How to handle difficult conversations with employees.

There are a number of tools that will help you navigate difficult conversations in order to keep the lines of communication open for future successes within your team.  Be it a complaint or grievance, addressing conflict, tardiness or behavior, you’ll want to have facts and specific instances available so you are clear about whatever it is you are discussing.  Stick to these facts and leave the feelings out. Leave room for growth, an opportunity for discussion and always make sure you listen to their perspective.  Keep things professional, be clear about your expectations and set goals on moving forward together.  

How to have a difficult conversation with an employee about performance.

Poor performance is always difficult to address, especially in cases where your employee may have no idea that their performance is in question.  So, when it comes to performance, handle with care so the individual leaves feeling like they are still a valuable part of the team, even if they have some work to do.  Start by sharing evaluations that may have been done either by the employee themselves, their supervisor and yourself if you are not their direct supervisor.  State the facts and stick to them.  Ask questions to learn about your employee, what may have gone wrong or how you can help them.  Set measurable goals that you can discuss in a follow up meeting and make sure you follow through.

What are the five steps to having difficult conversations at work?

You can handle these difficult situations with confidence by implementing some techniques to help you manage challenging conversations.  Here are five key steps to ensure that you’re headed in the right direction when it comes to having difficult conversations:

  1. Be prepared with facts but not a speech.
  2. Create a comfortable environment at a good time to not feel rushed, in a private location.
  3. Listen to their perspective so the person feels valued and heard.
  4. Share your thoughts, paying careful attention to being empathetic and confident.
  5. Discuss solutions together, setting measurable goals and a future meeting.

What is an example of having difficult conversations with employees? 

If your employee is failing to show up to work on time, as a manager, you’ll want to address the tardiness in a professional and empathetic manner.  Prepare ahead of time with instances where this employee was late to work as well as proof, should it be necessary.  Schedule a meeting that is a good time and place for you both where you can feel comfortable and not rushed through your time together.  Listen with an empathetic ear.  Even though the problem is pretty clear-cut, your job here is to make sure that your employee feels heard, even if their reasoning may not seem like a valid excuse to you, their feelings are valid just the same.  Communicate the importance of showing up to work on time and how it not only impacts their day, but others’ as well, and the company itself.  Work together to find solutions and be sure to follow-up afterwards.  

Managing difficult conversations with staff can be tricky.  But with careful planning, preparation and implementation of some of the techniques for managing challenging conversations mentioned above, you can not only have a successful conversation, but will also open the lines of communication, helping you to gain trust and confidence from your employees.


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