Conflict in the workplace can be very destructive, leading to sick days or a lack of motivation, even personal attack. As a leader, learning how to handle difficult conversations provides an opportunity to head conflict off early and create a more positive environment at work.
- Reflect a little. Prepare yourself to let the other person tell their story before you jump in. And before you open the conversation reflect on your own perception – are there any preconceived ideas or emotions that you’re bringing to the table that aren’t really helpful?
- Identify the problem. If there is an issue, before you raise it, get clear on what it is and the impact it’s having. Otherwise confusion could make the situation worse.
- Identify the outcome. Before you have a difficult conversation be unambiguous in terms of what you want to achieve with it – that could be getting another person to agree to something, providing support or agreeing a mutual plan of action to overcome obstacles.
- Don’t block emotions. It’s far healthier to acknowledge them, whether these are your own or someone else’s.
- Remember how important it is to be consistent. If you take a different approach to a difficult conversation with one employee than you did with another then you may find that you start to lose people’s trust. It’s crucial to be consistent in the way you treat everyone if you want to ensure positive outcomes.
- Allow for there to be some moments of pause. You don’t need to fill every single silence in a difficult conversation with chat. It might be necessary for both parties to stop and think or to give the other person the opportunity to process what you’re saying.
- Be direct. From the start of the conversation be open and concise – begin with something that sets the scene as to why that person is there and what you want to talk about.
- Make an ongoing relationship your priority. Although it can take a long time to establish a positive relationship with someone this can be blown away in minutes by a bad conversation. When you’re thinking about the best way to approach a difficult chat make preserving the relationship the focus.
- Understand conflict resolution. It’s often useful to do some training on conflict resolution so that you have the language and the tools to manage the process.
- Be clear about how you’re going to handle objections and obstacles. Most often these come in the form of stonewalling, sarcasm and accusing. These ploys are inevitable in a difficult conversation and so it’s a good idea to work out in advance how you want to deal with them.
- Pick your time and place. A difficult conversation that takes place before a deadline in the middle of a busy office could have a much more negative outcome than one in a less stressed environment and a more relaxed location.
- Delve into the science. There are lots of books, lectures and podcasts available on the topic of difficult conversations and the more widely you read around the subject the easier you’ll find it to work with.
Difficult conversations are inevitable but the way you handle them can make a big difference to outcomes. Find out more by booking onto our Handling Difficult Conversations Confidently Training Course…