How To Have Difficult Conversations

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Unfortunately, difficult conversations arise and knowing how to handle them appropriately is the key to managing them successfully.

Whether the conversation relates to performance, conduct, personal hygiene or letting an employee know that they won’t be getting a pay rise its important to have these conversations.

Preparing for these conversations can make them more manageable. Its important to follow these guidelines;

Plan the conversation
Outline the points you want to discuss and the outcome you want to reach before the meeting. Having a plan will help you to stay on topic, raise the issues and address them.

Be direct but not blunt
When discussing a difficult issue, you need to be direct, rather than skirting around the issue. Dragging out the conversation will only add to the tension and can lead to conversation not taking place at all. It may seem unkind to be direct but once the issue has been outlined you can then start to look for solutions. When you outline the issue be specific and keep it simple, use examples if you can to highlight when the issue has occurred.

Be empathic
Remember that the employee is probably feeling a whole host of emotions once they have been told about the issue so by empathic and show that you understand how the employee must be feeling. Allow them some time to take in the information and to process it.

Offer solutions and discuss potential solutions
Be sure to come to the meeting prepared with potential solutions to the issues. There’s nothing worse than identifying an issue but not having a plan on how to resolve it. Allow the employee to comment on potential solutions and also to offer solutions to the issues.

Set SMART objectives
Setting SMART objectives allows both parties to measure the progress of the objective. For example, if the conversation was regarding telling an employee they would not receive a pay increase, due to poor performance, set SMART objectives for them to improve on their performance. SMART objectives should be;
• Specific
• Measurable
• Assignable
• Realistic
• Time related
• Be specific

Remember having difficult conversations is not easy, but being prepared will aid the conversation.

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