Having conversations that you’d rather not have comes with the territory when you’re a manager. As an HR manager, you probably have more difficult conversations with employees than most, but it doesn’t mean that you find them any easier.
No matter how experienced you are, difficult conversations are a challenge because:
You worry about what to say, or what not to say
You can’t second guess how the other person will react
You’ve probably had a bad experience with these types of conversations in the past
What you should know about difficult conversations
You might wish that you could avoid having difficult conversations at times, but all you have to do is learn how to have them in a way that makes them less painful for everyone involved. What if I told you that you could do this by changing your mindset?
Changing your mindset about difficult conversations
You know from everyday life that your mindset often sets the tone for your day. If you wake up late, you’re rushing around, you get stuck in traffic, then you hurry into a meeting feeling completely unprepared, how are you going to feel? Everything will most likely seem terrible and you’ll be expecting everything to go wrong for the rest of the day.
In the same way, if you go into a difficult conversation with the wrong mindset, it’s not likely to be very pleasant or constructive for anyone. Instead, why not try:
Deciding that you and the other person are just two people in a difficult situation
Difficult conversations can seem even more difficult when you have to have them with someone you don’t really like. It might be that employee who you think has an attitude, or it might be someone negative who has a lot of influence on the team. Whatever it is, don’t make the conversation a personal attack on their character. Instead, choose to see yourself and the other person as two people who are in a tough situation who need to work together to find a solution.
Remembering that it’s not about being right
If you or the other person come into the conversation with the express purpose of proving the other wrong, neither of you are likely to leave the discussion feeling very happy. As a manager, take the lead and show the employee that you are willing to work with them to find a solution that pleases both parties. Saying ‘I’m right so you need to do as I say’ or anything along those lines is not likely to get them to do what you want.
Make peace with the fact that you can’t change who people are, but you can help change behaviours
It would be great if every employee behaved exactly the way we want them to, but that’s just not what people do. If employees consistently behave in a way you don’t want, you might think that it’s more to do with their underlying personality. You aren’t going to be able to change who someone is, because we’re all influenced by our experiences and individual backgrounds, but you can influence them to adopt more positive behaviour.
While you can’t control how people behave, you can have a conversation with them about how more positive behaviour can benefit them as well as the business. Any attempt at controlling their behaviour is likely to be met with resistance.
A difficult conversation is always going to be challenging, but a few simple shifts in mindset can make it a less painful experience and make it more likely that you’ll achieve a positive outcome.
Do you need help with difficult conversations?
As an HR manager, maybe you’re not relishing the fact that you’ll have to have some very tough conversations when people return to work after the spread of the coronavirus has started to slow.
Maybe many of these conversations should be handled by line managers but they’ll end up on your desk because managers lack the experience, they’ve been thrust into the role, or they’ve inherited a difficult team?
Whatever the situation, restoring and maintaining a harmonious and productive working environment following the coronavirus is going to be a challenge.
I can help.
My 1:1 consultancy sessions and bitesize learning packages can help you do this and much more. Everything is completely tailored to your needs and can be delivered virtually.
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