How to Have Difficult Workplace Conversations

How to Have Difficult Workplace Conversations

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Difficult work conversations are necessary to provide feedback and address behavior that negatively impacts the business.

They are the conversations most business owners dread and that employees tend to take personally. However, there are ways to share developmental feedback productively to help employees grow.

Read on, as we share tips for tackling those tough topics to help see positive outcomes.

Address Issues Right Away

Addressing issues immediately should be part of your workplace culture. 

Open communication helps establish that certain behavior needs to change. 

For example, if Jill is 15 minutes late every day, and nothing is said, she may assume it’s not a problem. As a result, she will likely continue to arrive late. Remember, the behavior you accept, is the behavior you get. However, if you ask Jill if there’s an issue with arriving on time, you start the conversation, letting her know it is not okay. You provide an opportunity for them to explain why they are late. 

There might be problems, such as getting their child to school or caring for an elderly parent. Conversations at the onset of issues make it easier to learn why the problem occurs so you can find a solution to remedy the issue together. If there isn’t a reason for lateness, you can explain how being late impacts the team and why it is unacceptable. 

By addressing problems early, you also avoid resentment towards co-workers not pulling their weight.

Avoid Using “You” During the Conversation

Using the word “you” too often sounds accusatory. 

Instead, focus on the word “I.” For example, in the situation above, you might begin by saying, “I was wondering if there is an issue with getting to work on time?” Instead of making an accusation, your question starts a conversation allowing the employee to participate and explain their position.  

Let’s look at another scenario: an employee makes frequent mistakes. In this case, you might start by saying, “I am spending time correcting more and more errors of late. Is there anything I can do to help with accuracy?” 

Again, you’re presenting an opportunity for the employee to participate in the conversation to find a solution.

Always Be Empathetic

Empathy is critical in conflict resolution. 

It considers the other person’s feelings and possible reactions to difficult feedback, such as embarrassment, resentment, or frustration. Being empathetic shows employees that you understand their side, are willing to listen, and that their input is valued. 

You allow the employee to absorb the information while offering your support without losing focus on resolving the issue.

Share Good with the Bad

Sharing positive and negative feedback helps establish your appreciation for the employee’s work. 

For example, you might say, “You’ve made progress on this project, but with your recent late arrivals, the team is feeling the impact.” People are less likely to be overly defensive about the negative when their hard work is also acknowledged. Instead, they are more likely to take responsibility for their actions and work on improving their work.

Although the hard conversations are stressful, early intervention, empathy, and acknowledging the positives help create a productive two-way conversation.

About Focus HR, Inc.

Focus HR, Inc. uncomplicates the people side of business by providing small business owners with outsourced HR, project HR, and Leadership Coaching. For more information, please contact us today! If you liked this post, please subscribe to our blog. You can opt-out at any time. 

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