8 July 2019
How to Confidently Handle Challenging Workplace Conversations
Many managers and even HR professionals can feel apprehensive, unsure and nervous about having the type of discussion with an employee that would be considered ‘difficult’ for one reason or another.
Some people put off these types of conversations but if you don’t tackle it, the employee could be misled by thinking there is not an issue and you might be denying them of the opportunity to put things right.
This article from Personnel Today talks about some ways in which you can take the fear out of meetings, but you can also use the tips below to remind yourself of the best ways to handle a tricky conversation:
- Ensure you hold the meeting at an appropriate time – don’t put it off thinking the issue might go away
- Where you hold the discussion is also important – plan a space which is private and where you won't be interrupted – don’t hold the conversation in public
- If it is a formal meeting, ensure you follow the correct process regarding invitations and right of accompaniment – if you’re not sure what this is, double check with a responsible source such as an HR professional or ACAS
- Plan ahead of the meeting – look at what you want to discuss (what is the aim or purpose of the meeting) and what you want the outcome to ideally be – make notes of the points you want to cover and the questions you want to ask – it’s fine to refer to this in the meeting
- Refer to the relevant Company policies – remember that you are doing your job as a manager (or HR person) by tackling the issue
- Gather facts and evidence and present them at the meeting (or in advance if it is a formal disciplinary hearing) – ask effective questions to gather more information
- Listen with curiosity – you are there to look at the situation as a whole and establish what barriers the other person may feel there are to not being able to do what you’ve asked
- Avoid making assumptions about the other persons intentions
- Empathise and acknowledge – you can do this without agreeing with the other person’s perspective
- Stay calm and be confident (or ‘act as if’) – don’t allow your buttons to be pushed if you are feeling emotional or if you already have a challenging relationship with the other person
- Maintain eye contact and speak clearly, avoid being defensive – think about the sorts of tried and tested techniques and strategies you can use if things are not going well or you are experiencing resistance
- Respond appropriately – treat the other person in a fair and reasonable manner
- Agree a remedy / expectations, including a timescale and how it will be monitored and/or measured – make sure the other person has an opportunity to put forward their suggestions and a clear understanding about what’s expected
- Summarise what has been discussed
- Write up the meeting and decide when you will review what was discussed – be realistic
Emma Morris of Embrace HR is an experienced HR professional with 20 years experience of handling difficult discussions effectively – if you are being challenged by toxic workplace behaviours, talk to us today about specific situations you are experiencing or get in touch to find out about training we can provide to line managers to help them to become more confident and effective.
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