Tips on Tackling Tough Conversations at Work

Communication is the key to a business’s success, be it with the stakeholders or the employees. Managers often have to deal with difficult conversations with employees, whether addressing poor performance or low motivation. We are here to discuss how managers can coach staff members toward a solution, approach them with empathy, and offer ongoing assistance.

According to a survey, 50% of employees in Hong Kong are afraid of speaking about their mental health and tend to avoid difficult conversations with their supervisors. Dealing with employees and starting a work-related difficult conversation is also essential. HR can help managers initiate difficult talks and promote a healthy company culture with profitable business practices.

It can be challenging to have a word whether you’re informing a customer that a project is delayed or presiding over a performance assessment that lacks enthusiasm. How do you get ready for a conversation like this? How do you find the appropriate words in a difficult situation?

We will discuss in detail how you can handle a difficult conversation at work regarding employee performance or other related issues. Without further ado, let’s get started.

Steps of Having a Difficult Conversation

Serious conversations with your employees can be confronting, but they help you train your workers more efficiently. If you approach your employees with mutual respect and care, difficult conversations often result in doing everyone a favor.

Employees in various industries face the consequences of avoiding conversations that escalate into bigger organizational troubles. Here is how you can initiate a tough conversation at work.

1. Build Trust

Work with your employees and engage in the actions of developing connections and trust daily. This will help you gain influence inside your company and foster mutual respect and understanding with your staff. It will be simpler to have difficult conversations because your coworkers won’t automatically presume bad intentions from you.

Emotional intelligence and projecting warmth and competence are powerful methods to increase trust. This shows that you have good intentions, and the ability to follow through can help you handle difficult team discussions. Once your employees trust you, they run toward you in case of a problem; they see you as a leader and look up to you to help them.

2. Decide a Setting to Have a Conversation

HR teams must take the initiative to choose appropriate settings for managers to discuss the particular difficulties employees face. This is achieved by holding online conferences where employees can chat about their mental health challenges or forming an employee resource group where staff can discuss issues that bother them.

3. Stay Confident

Managers can only engage and communicate with their employees when they clearly explain their thoughts so their employees can better understand. Fear does not only belong to the employees; managers may also fear initiating a conversation.

This is because managers know their employees and understand how they would react if you told them about their poor performance. However, some employees are good at handling these situations and react exceptionally well. Therefore, the manager needs to be prepared for any unwanted reactions.

4. Be Positive

If you approach your employees negatively and start with criticism deliberately, there are high chances your employees will get argumentative and defensive. Treat them positively and give them examples of situations that motivate them and encourage them to improve themselves.

As a manager, you must know you can positively conquer any situation. Your employees feel safe working under you, and you see them willing to achieve any milestone you assign them.

5. Prepare Your Conversation

After deciding the venue and time for the meeting, managers should gather all pertinent information and establish specific objectives to be ready for a challenging dialogue. Furthermore, a manager should be ready for any situation and create a strategy for dealing with them. Managers should be composed, prepared, and goal-focused during the conversation.

6. Discuss the Problem in Detail

It is easy to blame the other person for the problem caused, but it is better to find the truth so everyone can admit their mistakes, including the manager. This will help everyone to understand the situation and how it has affected the staff individually.

By doing so, you are enabling a safe environment for people at your workplace to express how they feel and think about the circumstance that has occurred and how it has affected them.

7. Be Understanding and Control Your Emotions

Strong emotions often surface up during a serious and challenging interaction; taking out your emotions on other people feels easier. However, it would help if you understand the situation and control your emotions so you can make wise decisions in everyone’s favour.

HR can help in this situation, listen to both parties without passing judgement, and provide a solution to facilitate the conversation.

8. Listen Actively

Consider that you are providing a performance assessment and providing helpful criticism. What response do you expect the other person will have? They might react immediately and defend themselves to maintain their positive image. It is also possible they keep listening to the criticism to rationalize the problem during the process.

We recommend you listen actively and carefully to the other party. Continuously speaking without listening to the other person may disappoint them, and they might also ignore what you say. Listening to your employees proves you can listen and understand their situation.

This way, they’ll trust you with their problems and come to you directly whenever they face a problem at work.

9. Get to the Point

The more specific you can be during challenging conversations, the better. The employees should know that speaking to the point can be more effective than beating about the bush and discussing irrelevant stuff. It is one of the responsibilities of a manager to ensure they’re making the meeting specific and not a drag.

Another essential factor you should consider is using recent examples and work performance while making decisions. Also, avoid bringing up old problems while giving an annual performance evaluation. Give an example of a circumstance that occurred during the review period, describe the results, and suggest how you would advise your employee to handle it going ahead.

10. Set Realistic Expectations

It would be best if HR defined the manager’s responsibilities for the welfare of the workforce. Managers should be well-trained to identify burnout and how to solve these issues with empathy. However, you cannot expect them to act as a therapist for employees. Similarly, give time to employees to take up the feedback and act accordingly. Make sure that everyone in the organization can communicate with each other and is aware of work requirements.

11. Create an Alternative Solution

You might enter the discussion with a particular objective in mind. However, come up with a strategy to proceed as a group to make the most of the conversation. You can make your conversation easier if you prepare solutions and propose them accordingly.

If you don’t think of solutions and keep meeting your employees with no effective outcomes, you may walk away from the uncomfortable and never-ending talk. However, coming to the meeting with a solution may have different results.

Bottom Line

If you want to avoid complex and uncomfortable conversations, it will worsen them over time. It is up to you to make your situation more manageable and talk it out with your employees so you can reach a possible solution and end the problem once and for all.

These discussions are practical, create mutual trust and honesty, and refrain from being judgmental toward your employees. You should actively listen to your staff members and communicate clearly.

Schedule a demo to find out more about Omni and learn how to integrate it at your workplace.

Get started today!

Get a 14-day free trial and see how Omni can work for your business.