Those awkward conversations you need to have at work…

It’s never fun as a leader or colleague having conversations that aren’t going to deliver good news. It may be a performance issue you need to address, or delivering an unsuccessful interview outcome. Unfortunately, it is part and parcel of life at both work and at home.

So, how do you approach conducting such conversations?

  1. Don’t over complicate it. Remember, very time we take part in these sorts of conversations it gets easier.
  2. It’s ok to feel a little apprehensive. Our natural tendency as humans is to avoid conflict. Being a little nervous can sharpen our attention which is a positive.
  3. Prepare in advance: Practice. Practice. Practice. Yep – in front of the mirror. I know it sounds silly but it works (Trust me!) Think about engaging your eye contact and utilise body language that is focused and attentive.
  4. Anticipate what you think the response from the person will be. Are they expecting this conversation? How will you respond to their reaction?
  5. Make sure you conduct the interaction in a setting that is private but conducive to the seriousness of the issue. Eg a quiet part of a café may be OK to have a private conversation with a colleague about an annoying habit, but is clearly not appropriate to deliver a performance review discussion.
  6. Use simple language: Be clear. State the situation, the result and the consequence.
  7. Remove emotion from your tone and language but always be empathetic if that is what the conversation requires. If a performance issue, remain calm and ensure you explain the reasons for non-performance succinctly.
  8. Always allow space and time for the person you are speaking to to respond. If they choose not to say much, invite a response. Eg “What are your thoughts about what we have spoken about?”, or “How are you feeling?”
  9. Make some small notes somewhere about what has happened, and the outcome after. It may be important down the track.

Remember it doesn’t have to be perfect. Do your best. As Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said, “Begin with the end in mind.”

Good luck!

Lexie Wilkins, Culture and Employee-Engagement Expert and Director, Lexie Wilkins Consulting

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