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INTERVIEWS

Managing difficult conversations

Difficult conversations are definitely not on the list of the most enjoyable tasks to do at work.

But one thing to keep in mind is that the way you manage those difficult conversations is critical to your success and the perception of your employees.  There are a couple things to consider when it comes to difficult conversations. 

First, what’s the best approach?  Casual conversation? Formal conversation? Direct orders?  Remember, direct orders often create confrontation so the best approach is to manage the conversation without confrontation.

Other points of preparation include:  identifying goals, planning the approach, avoiding distractions and interruptions, sticking to the facts, focusing on the issue rather than the person, and resolution rather than consequences.  Ultimately you’ll want to prepare very much like an investigative interview.  Always initiate with rapport, avoid harsh terms, show understanding with empathy, maintain control and be sincere.

If you approach these difficult conversations as coaching or counselling sessions, it provides the opportunity to discuss expectations, ones that everyone must adhere to, and even good performance points to prove they are capable of meeting expectations.  After that you can transition to areas of opportunity and how they can improve their performance to your desired performance points.  While doing so, it's best to discuss the “what’s in it for me?” so the employee recognises the benefits of improved performance.  Offer support, establish goals and always follow through to help add credibility to the entire process.  

Having a solid structure and preparation points can help to reduce stress and increase effectiveness of the difficult conversations you may be tasked to complete at work.

by Chris Norris, CFI
Wicklander-Zulawski

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