The Do’s and Don’ts of Difficult Conversations

If you want to be an effective leader, you must have strong communications skills and a good amount of composure. In today’s workforce, the only thing that separates one leader from the next, is how they communicate, handle conflict, and lead. Being a team leader can be an incredibly rewarding role but it comes with its challenges. And while handling difficult conversations may be the least appealing part of managing employees, it’s an important part of leadership that every manager should be prepared for—whether it’s about poor performance, attendance, peer conflict, or behavioral issues, these conversations are ultimately inevitable in any workplace dynamic.

It’s common for defenses to be high when having a difficult conversation, so it’s imperative that you have a plan for when they come about. Prepare ahead of time and pick a neutral time when it’s calm. Go into the conversation with an open mind and ready to listen. It takes a nanosecond to invoke defensiveness—employees may respond with a blank stare, a passive sigh, or even an angry rebuttal so be clear and concise, using non-defensive communication while also being professional and friendly in nature. Poor communication can affect morale, performance goals, and sales so take some time to ensure you know the facts and have a plan for whatever response you may get.

Below are some do’s and don’ts on how to effectively (and respectfully) navigate difficult conversations in the workplace while maintaining morale, fostering trust, and maximizing productivity.

  • Do think about what you want to say and how you’ll say it—come prepared to have a productive conversation.
  • Do sort out the facts beforehand and ensure you have documentation to support everything.
  • Do create an environment of trust and honesty.
  • Do use active listening and allow your employee time to provide feedback and ask questions.
  • Do put yourself in their shoes and seek to understand what they’re feeling—defensive, embarrassed, etc.
  • Do allow your employee to feel emotions and ensure you’re sensitive to their feelings.
  • Do find a solution together—establish actionable items that both you and your employee are clear about.
  • Do ask for confirmation at the end of the conversation to make sure everyone is on the same page.
  • Do keep the lines of communication open and make it a point to check in on your employee in the weeks following your conversation.
  • Don’t procrastinate having the conversation—a lack of action on your part can make things worse.
  • Don’t have a difficult conversation where others can possibly overhear—ensure your employee feels safe.
  • Don’t dance around the issue. Be as explicit as possible.
  • Don’t let professionalism overpower humanity.
  • Don’t begin with the end in mind. Consistently consider your employee’s perspective which can help provide a complete understanding of the problem.
  • Don’t start the conversation in an accusatory fashion—avoid using “you” statements and instead focus on the behavior being addressed.
  • Don’t be dismissive of your employee’s feelings.
  • Don’t make assumptions or jump to conclusions—there may be circumstances at hand that you are unaware of.
  • Don’t let your emotions get the best of you—difficult conversations are often over sensitive topics which can cause employees to respond defensively.

Difficult conversations can be awkward and unpleasant but with some thoughtful tactics in your back pocket, you can successfully address a tough situation and find effective solutions to whatever issues may arise while also ensuring you maintain respect with your team.  

Categories:
Blog Label:
Topic:
Tags:
SC
09/23/22 7:27 AM

More Blog Entries

03/22/24

Although nonprofits usually have exemptions from paying taxes, they must still file tax returns each year. Nonprofits file certain forms,...

03/18/24

One area where costs can quickly add up is recruitment. Finding the right talent for your organization is vital, but...

03/08/24

Question: Can I limit the number of times an employee makes changes to their W-4? Answer: No. IRS guidance states that an...

Terms Of Use

Privacy Policy and Terms of Use

UST maintains a secure site. This means that information we obtain from you in the process of enrolling is protected and cannot be viewed by others. Information about your agency is provided to our various service providers once you enroll in UST for the purpose of providing you with the best possible service. Your information will never be sold or rented to other entities that are not affiliated with UST. Agencies that are actively enrolled in UST are listed for review by other agencies, UST’s sponsors and potential participants, but no information specific to your agency can be reviewed by anyone not affiliated with UST and not otherwise engaged in providing services to you except as required by law or valid legal process.

Your use of this site and the provision of basic information constitute your consent for UST to use the information supplied.

UST may collect generic information about overall website traffic, and use other analytical information and tools to help us improve our website and provide the best possible information and service. As you browse UST’s website, cookies may also be placed on your computer so that we can better understand what information our visitors are most interested in, and to help direct you to other relevant information. These cookies do not collect personal information such as your name, email, postal address or phone number. To opt out of some of these cookies, click here. If you are a Twitter user, and prefer not to have Twitter ad content tailored to you, learn more here.

Further, our website may contain links to other sites. Anytime you connect to another website, their respective privacy policy will apply and UST is not responsible for the privacy practices of others.

This Privacy Policy and the Terms of Use for our site is subject to change.

Privacy Policy

Privacy Policy and Terms of Use

UST maintains a secure site. This means that information we obtain from you in the process of enrolling is protected and cannot be viewed by others. Information about your agency is provided to our various service providers once you enroll in UST for the purpose of providing you with the best possible service. Your information will never be sold or rented to other entities that are not affiliated with UST. Agencies that are actively enrolled in UST are listed for review by other agencies, UST’s sponsors and potential participants, but no information specific to your agency can be reviewed by anyone not affiliated with UST and not otherwise engaged in providing services to you except as required by law or valid legal process.

Your use of this site and the provision of basic information constitute your consent for UST to use the information supplied.

UST may collect generic information about overall website traffic, and use other analytical information and tools to help us improve our website and provide the best possible information and service. As you browse UST’s website, cookies may also be placed on your computer so that we can better understand what information our visitors are most interested in, and to help direct you to other relevant information. These cookies do not collect personal information such as your name, email, postal address or phone number. To opt out of some of these cookies, click here. If you are a Twitter user, and prefer not to have Twitter ad content tailored to you, learn more here.

Further, our website may contain links to other sites. Anytime you connect to another website, their respective privacy policy will apply and UST is not responsible for the privacy practices of others.

This Privacy Policy and the Terms of Use for our site is subject to change.