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Can You Handle Difficult Conversations with Your Staff?

If not, then you really aren’t alone. Many managers find the subject of difficult conversations with their staff members challenging, as they can be apprehensive about the reaction they are going to receive. This is often a common problem within the workplace and, when not carried out correctly, can escalate into serious performance and misconduct issues.

You’ll be pleased to know there are some great steps you can take to not only make approaching difficult conversations easier, but also to reduce the risk of a negative reaction from the employee. Those we consider to be the best are:

•Be approachable. This is something that is so easy and that anyone can do. Ensure you have good working relationships with your employees, that way, they will respect your feedback and be open to discussing their performance or any issues with you.
•Don’t wait. If an issue arises that calls for a difficult conversation then do it, as putting this off can lead to further problems down the line. Have the conversation and document it, then have it signed by yourself and the employee. Don’t wait for a formal review meeting to have the conversation.
•Be clued up. Approaching a difficult conversation can be complex if you don’t know all the facts. Make sure you are fully equipped with everything you need to know before you have the conversation; you need to be ready to answer questions or comments confidently.
•Keep on topic. Don’t let the conversation stray, keep it to the point and discuss only the issue at hand. Topic changes can lead to confusion and important details for moving forward not being said.
•Set the tone. Make sure you start the conversation in the correct tone and don’t falter throughout. You need to be confident and calm, and you need to remain in control. This way, the employee is much more likely to take notice of what you are saying; if you become emotional or lose your cool, then the employee is likely to mirror your behaviour and the conversation will not be effective.
•Keep an open mind. Just because you think you know all the facts, does not necessarily mean that you do. The employee may need to vent about a situation, or they may be experiencing problems outside of work that they have not yet discussed with you, and these could be impacting their performance in the workplace. Let the employee know you are there to listen and that you will support them where you can.
•Explain. You should always start a difficult conversation meeting by fully explaining the reason for it, including the meeting structure and any evidence you have brought to discuss. Ensure you discuss the facts around the issue and provide examples of evidence so the employee can gain a clear understanding of the problem.
•Keep it professional. Don’t ever let personal feelings or opinions be part of a difficult conversation. Keep strictly to the matter at hand and ensure you are always treating all employees consistently.
•Listen. Always ask the employee to explain their side of things and ensure you listen to them without jumping to conclusions. Ask unloaded questions to clarify the issue and give them opportunity to put forward any comments that they feel are appropriate.
•Discuss the implications. Not just on the business, but on the employee themselves, along with their colleagues and the clients of the business.
•Discuss training. This is previous training and any future training the employee may feel they need to carry out their job role effectively. There could be a training gap you aren’t aware of.
•Agree an outcome. Always try to include the employee in the outcome decision when you can; ask them how they think they can move forward or what actions could be put in place to support them. They will feel much more positive about the situation if you involve them in the outcome.
•Back up your decision. If you and the employee are unable to come to an agreed outcome, then you must make the final say on this. However, ensure you provide a full explanation as to why you have made this decision to avoid any confusion on the employee’s part. Remember, knowledge is key, so make sure the employee is aware of why the action is being taken and what it means for them.

These are just a few of the steps you can take when approaching difficult conversations with your employees; however, should you need further support or guidance, then please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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