Topic Risk Management,

Tread Lightly: 5 Tips for Difficult Workplace Conversations to Handle Problems in Key Roles

Tread Lightly: 5 Tips for Difficult Workplace Conversations to Handle Problems in Key Roles

In any job, there will be times where a difficult conversation must take place. It could be due to the smallest annoyance, or it could stem from issues that affect productivity--and eventually--the bottom line. As a leader, it is important to recognize the types of conversations you could potentially face. Knowing how to handle these types of situations can make a difference in reinforcing the culture and keeping the lines of communication open.

What are some examples of difficult workplace conversations?

According to a Harvard Business Review (HBR) survey, difficult workplace conversations include employees attempting to negotiate a raise; handling a challenging personality and apologizing for a mistake. Additional conversations that could be difficult include terminating an employee; advising an employee that their performance at work needs to improve, or they need to tread lightly at work; speaking with frustrated employees, and resolving a conflict with two or more employees.

There are numerous examples of difficult workplace conversations, but the most important consideration is being careful with the confrontation. When you don’t say the right words, you could find yourself in serious trouble. Here are five tips for handling workplace problems while maintaining a high compliance level to avoid any issues:

Prepare in advance

Having difficult conversations can be hard, but it is an even bigger challenge if you don’t have a plan. You should have the infraction and discussion points in front of you in detail to make sure you don’t leave anything out, or add something that has no relevance. You should know what you are going to say, and be prepared for any curveballs. It’s important to stay calm and stick to the plan to avoid any hurtful or upsetting words.

Be specific

You never want the employee to feel unsure about the conversation and what they did wrong. Make sure you are specific and clear about what went wrong and the direction you want to take to resolve the issue. Do not go on hearsay. You must have concrete evidence of what you are addressing so the employee is crystal clear and can either agree or have a rebuttal.

Watch your language

The words you use during the conversation matter. Make sure to use firm, yet appropriate words to get your point across and avoid any repercussions. The last thing you want to do is be unprofessional in how you say things. You should also avoid profane language at all costs, even if you feel the situation is getting out of hand.

Manage your emotions

Keep an even tone, and maintain your professionalism. Don’t let the conversation accidentally escalate – remain calm. Your emotions should not dictate your delivery. If you get emotional, chances are the other person will too. You are in charge and should positively steer the conversation.

Allow the other person to ask questions

No one wants to be admonished or disciplined and not have an opportunity to speak or ask questions. Make sure you are empathetic to the fact that the other person may be caught totally off guard. They may need time to process the conversation and get their thoughts together. Give them an opportunity to ask questions, and make sure you answer the questions in direct and complete answers.

Although navigating tough conversations can be challenging, it is important to understand potential pitfalls, so you do not make any mistakes. When you are prepared to have these conversations, you stay on track and remain compliant. If someone feels as though the conversation was not compliant, you could be in serious trouble.

Utilizing the highest degree of professionalism can protect you from liability. Partnering with a company like Quescto can help with these conversations while reducing your risk.

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Jason Randall

Jason Randall

Jason L. Randall is the CEO of The Questco Companies. He regularly speaks on topics related to strategy, growth, and organizational performance.