Once you hear it, look for overlap between your point of view and your counterpart’s. Show your counterpart “that you care,” says Manzoni. Acknowledge your counterpart’s perspective Don’t go into a difficult conversation with a my-way-or-the-highway attitude. Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own. “If you listen to what the other person is saying, you’re more likely to address the right issues and the conversation always ends up being better,” he says. Few people like confrontation. “Over time, his role had become less relevant to the organization,” she says. Offer a solution. Leaders must gather as much detail as possible about what the other person is experiencing. By their final conversation, the employee had decided to leave the company. What Does Purpose-Driven Leadership Really Mean? interactive scenarios to help you practice your conversation skills; downloadable resources and links to further information. If you see they’re really struggling with what you’ve said, pause for a minute while they collect themselves. “I really liked this person,” she says. Many people that have a difficult conversation don’t provide the clarity of what they want or what they would like to change, leaving it up to the person receiving the information to work it out for themselves. Breathe, center, and continue to notice when you become off center–and choose to return again. That means active listening on both sides and taking notes for questions later, rather than thinking about what you’ll say next. They're never easy to conduct and you risk causing workplace disharmony when you broach the subject with an employee. And, what does the other person think is the problem?” If you aren’t sure of the other person’s viewpoint, “acknowledge that you don’t know and ask,” she says. By cultivating a culture of trust and openness and fostering strong communication practices, you can successfully navigate tricky topics and help your team thrive. Apply the difficult conversation formula. “It’s very unlikely that it will go according to your plan,” says Weeks. You want to think of what you’re going to say, as well as anticipate how the other person might react. Tabatha says that while the employee “wasn’t happy” he took the lay-off “like a trooper.”, Even though she didn’t show her emotion during the meeting, Tabatha still says the conversation “lingers” in her mind today. Expressing emotions openly is difficult for many of us. If you manage people, work in Human Resources, or care about your friends at work, chances are good that one day you will need to hold a difficult conversation. “Don’t play the victim.”, Slow down and listen To keep tensions from blazing, Manzoni recommends trying to “slow the pace” of the conversation. You’re not telling your boss: no; you’re offering up an alternate solution. This is not the time for feedback sandwiches or an excess of compliments. He was initially defensive, but by the second time they spoke, he had come around and agreed there was a problem. A difficult conversation is one whose primary subject matter is potentially contentious and/or sensitive and may elicit strong, complex emotions that can be hard to predict or control. Increasingly, Worklogic Consulting is being asked by clients to provide coaching for managers and training for teams in the fine art of having difficult conversations. They had a great talk and even ended the conversation with a hug. Next time you have to have a difficult conversation, keep these points in mind to ensure that it's productive and well received. Think of the questions they might ask and have answers prepared. Offer as many concrete examples as possible so the person understands you're not just pulling things out of thin air. Asking questions helps the other person process what’s happened, and it allows you to clarify and solidify details of the conversation. Copyright © 2020 Harvard Business School Publishing. Your managers should be able to be pragmatic and ensure any conversations with an individual employee remains focused and productive. Harvard Business Publishing is an affiliate of Harvard Business School. She and her team tried a number of interventions — including having him work with a professional coach — but after six months, she needed to take action. Perhaps your boss lashed out at you during a heated discussion; or your direct report started to cry during a performance review; maybe your client hung up the phone on you. Be considerate; be compassionate. Be honest and thorough with your feedback, and fully clarify why you're having the conversation. The more prepared you are, the easier it will be to stay even tempered and not get flustered, and therefore deliver a more solid critique. As a result, we tend to avoid them. “Express your interest in understanding how the other person feels,” and “take time to process the other person’s words and tone,” he adds. Both of these feedback techniques will mask the point of the conversation and lessen its impact. Your counterpart doesn’t know “his lines,” so when he “goes off script, you have no forward motion” and the exchange “becomes weirdly artificial.” Your strategy for the conversation should be “flexible” and contain “a repertoire of possible responses,” says Weeks. “Think about why you had certain reactions, and what you might have said differently.” Weeks also recommends observing how others successfully cope with these situations and emulating their tactics. Before you broach the topic, Weeks recommends asking yourself two questions: “What is the problem? An employee's guide to difficult conversations in the workplace (48KB) (262KB) Start the course now Before you start, we recommend logging in or registering as you can: save or print a completion certificate at the end of the course If you’re telling an employee that they aren’t getting a raise, explain why and let them know what they need to work on to make that raise a possibility. Illustrating what a positive outcome looks like gives the employee something solid to work towards, and helps them understand why they’re being disciplined. It’s wise, therefore, to come at sensitive topics from a place of empathy. Difficult conversations become even more difficult when the delivery is muddled. I write about leadership trends in the evolving workplace. All rights reserved. Drafting a script, however, is a waste of time. “It was a process.”, Before even broaching the subject with the employee, she reminded herself of her good intentions. When it comes to difficult conversations with employees at work – whether it’s about underwhelming performance or addressing low motivation – the burden largely falls on managers. “We’re a small company and all really close—you know about people’s families and you hear about their vacations. Not every difficult conversation is going to be “confrontational” … But that’s not the right answer. Conflict is scary, but uncomfortable conversations can get us to a resolution (if you listen carefully to what is really being said). The Most Difficult Conversations You Have Ever Had At Work Readers share stories of weird, scary, and embarrassing office conversations. Do Put Together a Conversational Strategy. The most difficult conversations are the ones that go beyond fact-based discussions and touch on topics that are more sensitive or personal in nature (lack of advancement, letting people go, or behaviour issues) and the ones that have been avoided and left to fester over a long period of time. Do Share Your Feelings. And, how can you manage the exchange so that it goes as smoothly as possible? “We had to move on.”. Clearly explain why you're having the conversation to help them fully understand where you’re coming from. “Be constructive,” says Manzoni. Difficult conversations at work At times, we are all faced with conversations that are difficult, but important. “I still feel badly that it didn’t work out, but it wasn’t right,” she says. For instance, you’re not giving negative performance feedback; you’re having a constructive conversation about development. When having a difficult conversation, be direct and get to the point quickly. By choosing the calm, centered state, you’ll help your opponent/partner to be more centered, too. Ashira Prossack is a coach, speaker, and former competitive athlete helping business leaders unlock their full potential through a sports-based approach to professional. EY & Citi On The Importance Of Resilience And Innovation, Impact 50: Investors Seeking Profit — And Pushing For Change, Michigan Economic Development Corporation With Forbes Insights, Want To Realize Your Full Potential? Your language should be “simple, clear, direct, and neutral,” she adds. “You need to have the right energy going into something like this. She told the employee that he was “not a good fit.” She explained that the company would keep him on until the end of the month and then provided details about the severance package. How To Innovate And Keep Up With The Quick-Changing Landscape Of Luxury Retail, This Expat Turned Real Estate Guru Shares Her Top 3 Tips For Buying Abroad In The Current Economy, From Consulting To StartUp: How This Beauty Founder Used Transferable Skills To Launch A Second Career. We have provided some general principles around effective communication and have looked specifically at how you might use cues to provide more focus to your conversations. “I grew up in a military environment where there’s no bluff,” she says. Case Study #2: Put yourself in the right frame of mind and show empathy As Chief Personnel Officer at Booz Allen Hamilton, Betty Thompson, is accustomed to having hard conversations. You may opt-out by. Be compassionate “Experience tells us that these kinds of conversations often lead to [strained] working relationships, which can be painful,” says Manzoni. From delivering performance reviews to saying no to extra projects, difficult conversations are a regular part of work life. Take regular breaks during the day; the more calm and centered you are, the better you are at handling tough conversations when they arise, Slow down the pace of the conversation — it helps you find the right words and it signals to your counterpart that you’re listening, Find ways to be constructive by suggesting other solutions or alternatives, Label the news you need to deliver as a “difficult conversation” in your mind; instead frame the discussion in a positive or neutral light, Bother writing a script for how you want the discussion to go; jot down notes if it helps, but be open and flexible, Ignore the other person’s point of view — ask your counterpart how he sees the problem and then look for overlaps between your perspectives. 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