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How Do You Handle Challenging Situations and Difficult Conversations at Work?

If you’ve never asked yourself the question, “How do you handle challenging conversations in the workplace?”, now is the time.  In this article, we’ll explore a few techniques for managing challenging conversations in the workplace and help you to answer with confidence that you handle them well!

Workplace conflicts can really affect the dynamics  so it’s important, when they arise, that you address them quickly, professionally but also ready.  When you come prepared with discussion points, facts about the issue at hand and ideas for a solution, you’ve already started on the right foot.  Follow along while we talk you through how to handle difficult conversations with employees in the workplace.

What are the four steps in having a difficult conversation?

Difficult conversations can be handled successfully by implementing some strategies that start and end with preparation.  Here are four steps help set you up for success in difficult conversations:

  1. Prepare ahead of time.  What are your discussion points? What are your goals? What would you like to achieve? 
  2. Select a good time and place.  You’ll want to set aside enough time to address the things you’ve prepared to discuss, give the other person a chance to talk, discuss and plan for a follow-up.  Be sure it’s a private place where you both feel comfortable to share.
  3. Listen.  You may be the one conducting the meeting but the other person will want to be heard.  It’s important to remain empathetic and hear his/her perspective as well.
  4. Come up with a solution together.  Since you already have your goals in mind, how about working together to come up with a solution…a way to move forward that both of you agree on that still aligns with the goals you set ahead of time?

What is an example of a difficult conversation in the workplace?

There are a variety of scenarios that will help you prepare for your upcoming meeting, but sharing constructive feedback is one of the most common in the workplace.  In this situation, a manager needs to discuss performance issues with an employee.  During this conversation, the manager needs to cover poor work quality, missed deadlines and lack of attention to detail.

It’s important for the manager to provide constructive feedback, set clear expectations on moving forward, offer support to help the employee improve, and collaborate on a solution to discuss once the employee has had a chance to implement anything discussed.  The manager must stick to the facts, actively listen to any concerns of the employee and make sure he/she feels heard and valued.  

Role-playing scenarios like this will help employees feel more confident going into difficult situations. It will also assist in developing their communication and conflict-resolution skills, while teaching them how to be empathetic in difficult conversations while maintaining professionalism. You can use this example of a difficult conversation as a role play script in training other team members on how to handle difficult conversations in the workplace. 

What is the first step in a challenging conversation?

The first step in a challenging conversation will set the tone for the rest of the discussion.  Establishing a comfortable environment where both people are willing to share in an open and honest dialogue is the first and most important in a challenging conversation.  It will set the tone for the rest of the discussion.  While promoting active listening, empathy and mutual respect, this space will be a safe place for discussing sensitive topics.

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