Having Difficult Conversations At Work

Having difficult conversations at work is a problem for the majority of professionals. One study showed that 70% of employees avoid difficult conversations with their boss, peers, or those who report to them; seven out of every ten professionals avoid difficult conversations. 

Avoiding difficult conversations can lead to decreased productivity and poor morale at work, as well as increased stress levels. If you go to any of the recruiting sites, you would see a lot of anonymous negative reviews. You or someone you know is looking for another job partly because of their work environment.

Then how can you have these conversations so that you can manage difficult situations you encounter while doing your job? The key lies in how you approach having crucial conversations. Learning how to have crucial conversations is the key to overcoming the fear of having difficult conversations. 

5 Tips On Having Difficult Conversations

1. Don't wait to have difficult conversations.

The first tip is to have these conversations is to do them immediately. Don’t wait too long to have difficult conversations at work. The longer you wait, the deeper your negative emotions run, and the stronger your feelings will become. Eventually, when you have to approach the subject to have this conversation, you will be tense, edgy, and sensitive.

Moreover, the longer you wait, the behavior or performance issue you want to address would probably get worse. What may have been easily addressed with a conversation earlier on becomes a bigger dilemma.

Therefore, once you notice that a problem with another person is reoccurring, then prepare to have that crucial conversation before it gets worse.

2. Don't attack the person, address the problem.

Do not make the conversation about the person, but on the behavior or performance, you want to see change. When you approach a conversation by attacking a person instead of the problem, that person would put up a defense, fight back, and not listen to you. 

When you approach a conversation by attacking a person instead of the problem, that person would put up a defense, fight back, and not listen to you. 

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You are unlikely to change a person by generalizing a problem they have in one aspect to the other parts of who they are. Therefore when having difficult conversations, stick to the identified problem.

3. Be aware of the person's personality and communication style.

Some people are thick-skinned while some are thin-skinned. Show empathy when having crucial conversations. It’s not about you it’s about them because you want that person to change. Watch your tone and posture when having these conversations.

Remember that a person who is usually quiet would still be reserved when you have these conversations. Don't assume that a person's reticence is an act of defiance. Neither should you assume that a person's outspoken behavior during crucial conversations is an act of rebellion if that's how the person's personality.

When you understand that person's personality and communication style, you would be better prepared to manage the conversation. People's personality traits may become more pronounced when stressed or under scrutiny, so be ready to remain calm during these conversations.

4. Prepare for difficult conversations.

Be well informed about the facts of a problem before having any crucial conversation. It's difficult to argue against facts, so bring all the evidence that supports your assertions when having crucial conversations.

Have specific examples of situations you want to address so that the person you are speaking to understands the problem behaviors. In some instances, people are unaware of how their behavior or performance affects the workflow or work environment.

5. Be ready to listen.

Active listening is a fundamental key to getting a positive outcome when having crucial conversations. Seek the perspective of the person you who's behavior or performance is the subject of the conversation.

Many things happen when you actively listen. The other person sees that you are ready to listen to them, and that makes it easier for them to share their viewpoints. It shows that you respect them and their views.

It may show you areas where you can make changes to prevent a similar situation from reoccurring. For example, if a team member turns in projects late, it may be because more time is needed to complete projects. It may be a delay from a supplier or another department. It could be anything.

When you listen to understand, it gives you more insight into the problem, and that may prompt you to take other steps to stop similar problems from happening again.

Having crucial conversations is a must-have skill to address uncomfortable situations at work.

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