Handling Tough Conversations with Employees

Difficult conversations occur both in personal and professional relationships. Whether it is about benefits and pay, inappropriate behavior, teammate or performance issues, these conversations are inevitable. This is  why handling tough conversations is a skill. While sweeping an issue under a rug may seem easier, doing so may result in consequences for the team and for the organization. Ignoring such could be detrimental to the company’s overall success in the long run. 

We have listed down 5 tips on how you could handle tough conversations with your team members:

Listen and Empathize 

First things first –  be an active listener. Fostering a trustworthy and comfortable environment for employees means giving  them the opportunity to speak up their minds. This also entails having a healthy dialogue with them as they ask further questions about the issue. Have empathy for your employees but keep a right balance between emotions and implementing company policies. 

Find the Right Setting

Creating the right setup also means setting up the tone of the meeting. Performance evaluations can usually be discussed over a cup of coffee. However, serious behavioral or attitude concerns should be addressed in a safe space for both the employee and manager, usually one of the company’s conference rooms or private office spaces. Privacy and confidentiality are the utmost concerns for this type of discussion. 

Use Positive approach

In relation to having the right setup,  it does help to start with a positive tone. This is to avoid any possible hostility during the meeting.. In order to effectively  address the issue, both employees and  managers should be calm and keep their focus on the resolution. Always end on a positive note so employees  leave with the impression that they will do better and that they have ownership with what they are responsible for.

Be Prepared

Conversations should be backed up with objective facts and data. It’s important to have discussions documented and  action plans for every possible scenario. Continuous brainstorming and coaching for conflict resolutions is essential .

Be Consistent

Expectations should be the same across all employees. Being biased or favorable to a certain employee or department will obviously create more conflict. 

It is suggested that one  has carefully planned out not only the information needed to discuss  but its delivery before having a difficult conversation with employees. While such discussions are mostly uncomfortable and awkward, leaders who effectively handle them may improve working relationships with their employees and provide needed feedback & correction on workplace performance or behavior, increasing employee engagement.

About the author

Jowena Borral is an HR Generalist with more than 5 years of experience working with local and international companies. A business specialist with a knack for creative visualization, team engagement and human interaction.