Difficult Conversations – Understand the Different Types and How to Make Them Easier

What is the top HR most expensive mistake?

Per People Management, it is avoiding those difficult conversations.

The CMI (Thursday 02 July 2020) cite the trickiest conversations as:

1. Pay packets – 33%

2. Inappropriate behaviour in the workplace – 31%

3. Feedback on poor performance – 30%

4. Promotions – 23%

5. Sex – 19%

6. Relationship break ups – 17%

7. Family relationships – 16%

8. Money – 16%

9. Health – 15%

10. Letting someone go from a job – 10%

Let’s discuss what to consider to help you have the conversations needed.

  • Consider the purpose of the meeting

What is the reason for this conversation?  You need to be clear in your mind.

And think about what you’re hoping to achieve.  You will need to remember this throughout the discussion. You could be anticipating the team member takes ownership of seeing tasks though to the end, or identifies how they will stop being late in meetings and agrees on an implementation plan. Whatever it is, the thing to consider is, unless the jobholder takes ownership then any potential outcomes are likely to fail.

In certain circumstances, you will find the outcome will be fixed, particularly if a disciplinary or grievance case. Remember how you approach the discussion will make a huge difference.  Think positive!

  • Understand your emotional state

Being in the heat of the moment is not a good place for a conversation.  Find a way of removing the emotion from your side to enable the best results. If you are struggling take some time out such as a cup of coffee or walk, or hold off the conversation for a day.  These meetings need to be carried out in an adult to adult manner.  Managing your emotions will help the participant and make it easier for them.

Understanding how you feel about the issue before you commence the meeting is crucial and keeping your mind in an open state gets the best results. Go in all guns blazing with your viewpoint set and you will see your participant switch off.

One thing to bear in mind, is, what are your unconscious biases? Don’t let these affect the conversation and relationship with the person. Taking time to understand your biases can make a huge difference and over time you will get to realise when they are surfacing.

Sometimes it can feel hard having the conversation because you get on well with the person and you are finding it embarrassing or feel angry that you have been put in this position. The need at this stage is to put your feelings to one side and detach yourself.  This is about being fair and professional.  This is where keeping the discussion to facts will help.

Frame your approach to be compassionate and tolerant.

  • Consider a strategy for your meeting

Most meetings are virtual at the moment which can make it harder. Make sure you plan to cover

  • The reason for the meeting
  • How you see the issue
  • The other person’s insights and thoughts
  • Sharing of a way forward
  • An agreed conclusion with the person taking ownership of what is needed

Before the meeting have all your facts and evidence pulled together.  Consider whether you need to share reports and other data.  It is better if you have the opportunity to share ahead of the meeting, but it is not always possible.

Often meetings go wrong because the person feels under attack and then goes defensive.  Think about the language you are using and the body language you are showing, even on camera.  Active listening has a key part to play in any type of meeting.  On-screen it is much harder to demonstrate, so use questions and summarising. Don’t get distracted, turn your phone off and really concentrate on what the team member is saying. On camera, lean forward and show you are interested.

Shouting, insulting and being intimidating is a complete no,no!

If it is a face to face meeting, arrange the chairs so it is a more relaxed setting and go prepared with tissues, if you think you may need them.  Consider whether arranging to take drinks in will diffuse the situation slightly and create a more relaxed atmosphere. 

Think about how you want to start the meeting but don’t make it so formalised that it sounds stilted and puts your team member on the spot.

  • Be fair to the other party

Giving the other person time to prepare too, can be a good idea.  Unless it is a disciplinary or grievance, other issues should be no surprises.  If the issue is delicate then don’t give a long preparation time though as we all worry and build it up in our mind.  By giving this notice, you are being sensitive.  If you feel the person will build the meeting out of proportion, consider your wording and detail you are sharing carefully.  The last thing you want is the person going off sick or escalating the issues.

Share the reason for the conversation with a general overview of the issues to discuss, but don’t go in-depth with the detail.  If they ask for more information, then state you will discuss in the 1-2-1.

You know your team member so you are the best person to judge how the news will be received and what is the best way to proceed.

Struggling with the difficult conversations issue?

Fed up because your manager’s aren’t having the needed conversations?

You know if it is left, you could have bigger problems, like grievances, bullying claims, unfair dismissal and employment tribunals but finding the time is a real headache.

Let me make your life easier.

My Making Difficult Conversation easier package creates managers who have confidence and the ability to hold the difficult conversations and take the actions needed.

Making your life a lot less stressed and letting you breathe again

Book a discovery call now.

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