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How to Handle Difficult Conversations with Employees?


Difficult conversations at work are an unavoidable aspect of management and work relationships. Whether it is about speaking to your client about a delayed project or an unpleasant talk on lack of enthusiastic performance- situations can get demanding and strenuous. Several colleagues have lost their clients because of bad mouthing and disagreements. The good thing about this situation is that it can be controlled. Handling a difficult conversation takes up a lot of effort, patience and empathy. One needs to have courage in order to put his thoughts into words. The more you develop the habit of facing these problems, the more you will improve in this field. On that note, go through some of the tips enlisted here on how to have a difficult conversation. Hopefully, all of them will help you managing difficult conversations at work in the future.

difficult conversations with employeesHow to Handle Difficult Conversations?

The following mentioned are few conversation tips on how to hold a conversation and ways for handling difficult conversations.

1. Be Crystal Clear:

When you are trying to prepare yourself for the confrontation, make sure you question yourself first. Ask yourself what exactly is the reason behind this problem? What sort of behaviour lead to this issue? How does the behaviour affect you or the organization? Clarify these questions in your mind at first. This will help you articulate your sentences better while speaking. Having very little focus on the issue will take the tough conversations to another level sabotage your intentions.

2. Keep The Objective In Mind:

You must question yourself here again. Ask yourself what is that you would like to accomplish? What will be the result of this? Where should you stop yourself while speaking? Once you have sorted this out, start planning on how you will bring the challenging conversation to an end. Do not close the top until you have made your point clear. Try to know what the person is comfortable in doing and how much support can you provide. Also decide on how the two of you are going to overcome obstacles in the future. Prepare a schedule right after this in order to keep a track of the progress.

3. Take Control:

We understand how difficult it can get sometimes while having difficult conversations. Our emotions are everywhere and we lose self esteem often. And this is exactly where the change needs to be made. When you are dealing with a client, please make sure to keep your emotions behind the door. Avoid this by being mindful and taking situations light. Be careful not to disrespect the person’s dignity. Treat them with respect even if your thoughts don’t match with theirs. According to experts, the more calm and composed you are, the better you will be at handling a tough situation at work. Do take regular breaks and breathe deeply. This will help you concentrate better and prevent the open conversation from erupting.

4. Try to Preserve the Relationship:

A leader who is intellectual and emotionally stable will always be careful to speak fewer sentences that lead to collateral damage. It takes a lot of time and effort to build a strong relationship and only a few seconds to damage them. Try and think about the entire conversation carefully. Take the initiative to fix the situation like a mature individual. Try not to say anything that would create a wall between the two of you.

5. Show some consistency:

The approach you are about to use should have some sense of consistency. Your objective should not be biased. For example: if you have a set of rules for one person and a different set of rules for another, you will be portrayed as someone who showcases favoritism. Nothing destroys a relationship better than inequality. Employees never forget what they have seen in the past. Your behavior and mannerisms are carefully analyzed. Therefore it is important to aim and show some consistency. This will help your employees to trust you. It will also encourage them to discuss issues pertaining to culture and corporate values.

6. Know how to begin a effective conversation:

There are some who put off others with their way of speaking because they don’t know how to begin. The smartest way to tackle this is by being direct and clear. Say something like “Hey! I would like to speak to you about the incident that occurred this afternoon. Let’s grab a drink tomorrow evening and talk about this”. Or “Brenda I want to discuss some of the issues we have been dealing with recent customers. Would you be available tomorrow?”

7. Choose a good place for having a conversation:

Asking people to meet you at office might not be the best strategy to apply. Sitting behind a desk will automatically shift more power towards your side. Even simple body language and gestures like leaning forward or backwards to the chair can give off some wrong signals. So it is best to avoid your office room and choose a neutral location such as a meeting room where both of you can sit adjacent to one another. The coffee shop is also a good idea.

8. Try to be comfortable during silence:

There will be a few times in the middle of a conversation when you experience complete silence. Do not make the mistake of rushing in just to fill the space. Just like the brief pause between musical notes allows you to understand music, similarly a moment of silence will allow the message into sink into your mind. It will calm you and build a strong connection. If the person opposite you is an introvert, give them their moment and let them speak their mind. In that way, both of you will understand each other better and know how to handle situations in an effective manner.

9. Be Curious:

Being curious will actually help you learn about your employee. Always try to show that you are eager to explore and discover. If you do know something about the person in front of you, pretend for a while that you don’t. Instead, go ahead and ask them different questions. This will help you what’s on their mind. Also remember to let your employee speak as much as he would like to. Don’t interrupt until they are done. If you hear criticism about yourself, learn to take it like an adult does. Do not expect them to acknowledge you in any case. Try to maximize your benefits from this conversation by learning about others opinion about you.

10. Practice:

It is also important to practice before you finally execute. If you want to speak at ease and display good skills, try to practice the conversation mentally. Analyze the possibilities and imagine yourself tackling the situation like an expert. Also try to speak about this to a friend till you meet the real one. You should also come up with strategies that will help you maintain the flow of the conversation when it gets difficult. Do not imagine that your opponent will try and understand your opinion. And make sure to refrain from bad language. Keep your calm and choose your words wisely.

11. Acknowledge your colleague:

When you acknowledge, you will hear and understand the words of your employee. Once you do that, the picture will become much clearer. Try and honour his position. He or she will not be willing to change until you show some empathy. However, there is no guarantee if they ever will. You will have to accept the outcome no matter what it is. Also remember to keep acknowledgement and agreement separately. This will make things easier.

12. Build Solutions:

Next you will have to learn how to plan and build solutions. Ensure to ask your employee what they think would work best. Brainstorming would actually be an effective tool here. No matter what they say, find something you like and try to build on that point. When you get to know the other persons point of view, it will encourage them to trust you. This will help them engage more actively into the conversation. If you can adjust your attitude and deal with sufficient enquiry, building solutions will be easy.

13. Train others to tackle difficult situations:

There are several books available online that help you solve problems at work place. Purchase some of them online or simply pick a few from the corporate library. Hand it over to the leaders of the organization so that they can deal with things efficiently.

Learning how to communicate with your employees like an expert is certainly not the easiest task in the world. It can be strenuous, time consuming and burdening. But if you are able to tackle situations with patience, it will make you a clear winner. You should always remember to listen to the voice inside your heart. Be careful, alert and vigilant while speaking. Do not disrespect someone while making your statement. This will surely make things smoother. Also don’t forget to and apply all of these tips and use them accordingly. It will definitely help you improve relationships at work and solve problems like a professional does.