Need to hold a difficult conversation with someone at work - The Resolution Centre
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Need to hold a difficult conversation with someone at work - The Resolution Centre

Need to hold a difficult conversation with someone at work?

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Need to hold a difficult conversation with someone at work?  Take some tips from us and get it right!

Everyone at some stage in their career will need to hold a difficult conversation with a colleague, a sub-ordinate or their manager.  People that we work with will sometimes dress or act unprofessionally.  Sometimes it is personal hygiene or a messy office.  Or, what about the person that is so flirtatious their behaviour may be interpreted as sexual harassment?

If you have encountered these types of matters, you may have also faced the responsibility to provide some feedback.  So how do you hold difficult conversations that are constructive, professional and don’t lead to further grievance or conflict?

Here are some highlights from The Resolution Centre’s conflict prevention specialists that might help you prepare:

  1. Firstly, seek permission to provide feedback.  Even if you are the individual’s supervisor or manager, start the conversation by saying that you have some feedback that you would like to share.  Ensure that the time and place is appropriate and acceptable to the individual.

  2. Advise the individual at the start of the conversation that the feedback is difficult to share and give the person a chance to prepare mentally for potentially embarrassing feedback.  If you feel uncomfortable in the situation, you may like to express that as well.

  3. If you are providing difficult feedback at the request of others, try not to draw too much attention to this fact and do not excuse your responsibility.  Doing so might increase embarrassment and harm the recovery of the individual receiving the feedback.

  4. State the matter to the individual in simple and straightforward terms.  For example;  “to be successful in this organisation, I would like to ask you to improve…”

  5. Advise the individual of the positive impacts that change will make for their career and job.

  6. Reach agreement and set a deadline for what the individual will do to improve their behaviour or change the problematic situation.  Set a time to sit down and review their progress.

  7. When following up, be honest.  Provide positive or negative feedback as needed.  In some cases, a counseling or disciplinary procedure may be the logical next step.  Speak to your Manager about what to do if the situation has not improved.

As hard as these types of conversations can be, it is good that you care enough about the individual’s success as a valued employee to make the time and effort to hold these discussions.  Above all, unless the matter is of an unlawful nature, maintain happiness in your workplace by keeping the discussions confidential. 

Wishing you success!

Human Resources & Conflict Prevention Team
The Resolution Centre

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