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

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

Five Steps to Having Difficult Conversations at Work

So you need to have a difficult conversation…now what?  Difficult conversations are inevitable if we want to keep the atmosphere palatable and productive in the workplace.  Ignoring issues or failing to address difficult situations by avoiding conversations altogether may have effects that bleed into your entire business or organization.  You want to be heard and so does your team so let’s find some solutions to some typical workplace issues.

What are examples of having difficult conversations?

There are a number of different types of difficult conversations at work that might need to be addressed.  Resolving conflicts between team members is always at the top of the list.  Cohesiveness within a company/organization directly impacts the performance or lack thereof. Here are a few more examples of challenging conversations in the workplace:

  • Giving negative feedback
  • Addressing tardiness or poor performance
  • Discussing sensitive topics
  • Terminating a position

If you want to handle these situations effectively, you’ll first want to be sure you are also open for feedback.  Constructive criticism is key to having a successful conversation but it’s also imperative to your personal and professional growth as well.  How you conduct yourself in these situations will determine how comfortable your team is in coming to you when they have a problem.  So let’s talk about that next.

What is the best way to start a difficult conversation with an employee? 

Initiating these conversations is the first step in the process.  Once you’ve broken the ice, it may not be smooth sailing but you’ll have one thing checked off your list of difficult tasks!  Schedule a time that works for you both without having to feel rushed.  Be sure you reach out to the person with tact and clarity so they don’t feel blindsided, even though sometimes this is inevitable. 

How do you conduct a difficult conversation at work?

Once you’ve got the meeting set, it’s important to come prepared.  Handle things with empathy while clearly communicating the points you need to discuss.  Be sure you understand the issue at hand, documenting any facts you might need to reinforce the reason for discussion.  Not only is the right environment and time of great importance, but so is trust.  Ensure the other person that this conversation is confidential, aside from any obvious involvement from other necessary parties.  Stick to the facts and leave distractions such as phones and other devices out of the meeting.  Remember that this isn’t about winning, it’s about coming together with a common goal and collaborating on ways you can be successful in avoiding this situation in the future.

What are the five steps to having difficult conversations at work

Difficult conversations can be handled successfully by implementing some strategies that start and end with preparation.  Here are five key steps to ensure that you’re headed in the right direction when it comes to having 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. Share your thoughts.  Yes, the conversation will be difficult to have and you may have specific points to cover but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have an opinion on the matter.  Share with the other person openly, honestly and respectfully.
  5. 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?


Share this article