The best way to handle difficult conversations in the workplace?

The best way to handle difficult conversations in the workplace?

Difficult conversations – well it’s right there in the wording isn’t it? They’re difficult. As a Manager however, you are likely to have more than one difficult conversation in your career, so learning how to master them is the key to making your life – and your employee’s lives – much easier.

Too often as Managers we avoid giving our staff negative feedback. In the short term, it can seem like we’re doing them a favour by not sitting them down and telling them they’re not performing – but really what we’re doing is making it harder on them. Employees want to receive constructive feedback and, in many cases, need to receive it in order to deliver the outcomes expected of them in their roles. If we don’t talk to them about their underperformance or give them negative feedback, it can simply appear as though we’re no bothered by their performance, and imply to them that what they are doing is acceptable. Put simply – why would they change anything about their performance if they don’t know it’s a problem?

As Managers, more so as Leaders, we need to be open and forthright with negative constructive feedback. That means we need to be able to have difficult conversations. So how do we do it?

  1. Open Questions

Start the conversation by asking open questions about the area of concern. (For example – how is the project going so far?)

  1. Listen

The purpose of questioning the employee is to work out where s/he is coming from. What is their perspective of the situation? What issues are they encountering? They may well identify the issue immediately, but even if they don’t, you’ll be able to see if s/he is aware of the performance issue.

  1. Clarify understanding and problem solve

Confirm what s/he is saying and start to refine your questioning. At this stage we want to bring focus to the issue in question and get the employee’s feedback. (For example – I’ve noticed that the project is behind schedule, can you tell me why that may be? What do you think we need to do to get it back on schedule?)

  1. Listen and establish a plan of action

Let the employee help you to establish what they need to change in order to start achieving performance expectations. If they’re stuck, use questioning to help them along, and together identify what they key problems are and how to rectify the issue.

  1. Confirm the steps moving forward using closed questioning

Using closed questioning, confirm with the employee the performance issue that was identified, and what you have both agreed upon to rectify the issue.

Using this approach reduces the risk of the conversation resulting in conflict and engages the employee through problem solving and establishing collaborative actions.

Do your Managers put off performance management and other difficult conversations? HR On-Demand customers have access to our free monthly coaching webinars, including May’s ‘How to have difficult conversations’ webinar, which is now available for replay. If you would like to view this webinar, please contact us on 1300 55 99 62 or hrondemand@talentcodehr.com.au .

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