Coworkers having a difficult conversation

How to approach difficult conversations in the workplace

Nobody likes conflict. And at work, when you are trying to use your time effectively to get things done, friction between coworkers can be especially frustrating. However, if someone is doing something wrong, making it impossible for you to do your job, or simply is not pulling their weight, it might be time for that difficult conversation. Here are some suggestions on how to approach difficult conversations in the workplace.

  1. Prepare your mind. Nobody wants to rush into a difficult conversation. Take a minute to collect your thoughts – think through and analyse your approach. Breathe slowly and deeply to calm yourself down if you are nervous. Also, make sure you are not feeling angry before you speak.
  2. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Think about how the other person might feel about the situation. Think about how you would feel if a person approached you in the way you are about to approach them. Try to understand things from their perspective before you approach them.
  3. Start positive. Find something positive that you can begin the conversation with. Perhaps you could thank the other person for something they did. Offering positive feedback will make them more open to what you are about to say.
  4. Address the problem gently. As much as you may want to avoid conflict, the problem does need to be addressed. Try to put it in terms of improvement instead of failure. For instance, you might say, “I think we could improve this area by trying…” instead of saying, “You didn’t do this very well.”
  5. Ask for their opinion. This is crucial. You need to know what they think – partly just to give them a chance to explain themselves, and partly so you can make sure you understand exactly what is going on. Give the other person an opportunity to express their thoughts.
  6. Humbly share your opinion. You are probably in the right in this conversation. But really try not to sound like a know-it-all. Once again, word your argument in such a way that you sound hopeful and eager for improvement.
  7. End positively. When you have things worked out (to one degree or another), cap it all off with encouragement. You can express faith that the other person can carry out what you want. Or you can simply thank them for listening.

Difficult conversations don’t have to be a nightmare. These seven steps will help your conversations have a successful outcome. Come along to one of our Corporate Health and Wellbeing Summits or Corporate PA Summits to learn more about improving the culture in your business.

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