‘Helen have you got a minute? I need a word’.

‘Helen, have you got a minute?  I need a word.’

I don’t know who was more nervous here, Helen, wondering what on earth the ‘word’ was going to be about or me as the inexperienced line manager for actually having to have this tricky conversation. You see Helen was taking rather too many cigarette breaks and was neglecting her duties. I had procrastinated for too long and this led to the behaviour becoming more ingrained and other team members having to take up the slack. So, I HAD to have this conversation.

The course of running a business does not always run smoothly; there can be bumps along the way. Often these can be caused by your people: Performance issues, bullying, harassment, misconduct, personal issues, personality clashes and so on.

If these issues aren’t tackled straight away then team morale and productivity can be affected and for you as a manager, loss of credibility and respect can be a real consequence.

Knowing that you must deal with these difficult conversations can be daunting. Not knowing how the other person will react; feeling awkward and uncomfortable; wondering whether it will damage your relationship, and what will the affect be on the team? All these concerns can lead to inaction.

With our 5-step process helping you plan and prepare and keep on track; hopefully some of these concerns can be alleviated.

Step 1 – Plan and prepare

  • Know what you want to achieve from the conversation
  • Consider your surroundings – is it private? Are there any physical barriers?
  • Plan what you will say

Step 2 – Deliver your message

  • Use non-judgemental language
  • Describe the behaviour, the outcome of that behaviour and how it makes you and others feel

Step 3 – Stop talking and listen

  • Shut up and let the other person speak!
  • Truly listen to their point of view

Step 4 – Discuss solutions

  • Ask the other person how they think you can come to a resolution
  • What are your thoughts?

Step 5 – Agree and commit

  • Come to an agreed solution
  • Commit to future action

Some conversations won’t be quite so collaborative if it is a conduct issue that simply needs to stop. However as far as possible, ask for input from the other person rather than imposing solutions. It is important to allow ‘room’ for the individual to receive feedback. Ask them what they think. Think of it like a glass of water. They need to give their own opinion of a situation first and tip some of the water away. This then makes room for your input. If you go in with yours first, then the cup can overflow, and the message is lost.

What difficult conversation do you need to tackle first?

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