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HOW TO HAVE DIFFICULT WORKPLACE CONVERSATIONS

No M8 likes to have hard conversations. Having difficult conversations are a necessary part of working well with your workm8tes.


Cost of not having difficult conversations

In the long-term, not having difficult conversations destroys trust, lowers team8te morale, productivity, efficiency, and hinders innovation, problem solving and learning. 


By not having honest difficult conversations with workers, you are misleading them and denying them the opportunity to improve. 



Know what to do to have a successful difficult conversation:

Infographic - use the state approach to help guide your convo. Share the facts, Tell your story, Ask questions, Talk tentatively, Encourage testing

1. Tackle the elephant in the room


No one likes conflict.  


Difficult conversations are a big part of leadership.  

These conversations show that you care about what you do, and the m8tes you are doing it with.  


To be a successful leader you are likely to encounter some conflict in your interactions with your workm8tes. Where conflict is unavoidable, it’s important to work through it in a constructive way to address any challenges.


2. Choose wisely - issue & environment


Make sure the issue you raise with your workm8te is the right one. 

Jot down key points in priority-order in advance. Make sure the issue you raise is recent, and a first-hand account.

Environment is important.

Choose a private place and pick an appropriate time. Just before knock-off, or lunch, or on a Friday arvo are not good times to talk. It is also not a good idea to approach your workm8te when they are with a group of people.


3. Keep a positive outlook & tone - approach from a neutral perspective

Be mindful of your tone and body language. No one likes to be lectured to.  Pitch the conversation as a "quick chat" - avoiding language that may suggest punishment.

Say something like:

  • "How's everything going? "

  • "How are you feeling about joining the team?"

  • "Can I have a few minutes of your time? I'd like to better understand... X,Y or Z to talk about some feedback?"


4. Be upfront & honest


Be direct, specific, non-emotional, and share just the facts.

Only share things you have seen first-hand.


Using the words "notice" and "wondering" opens up the conversation and can be used in a positive or correcting way.

  • "I noticed X and was wondering what's going on? "

  • "I noticed that you've solved this problem and I was wondering how you did it?"


5. Be curious – seek to understand


It’s a good idea to enter the conversation seeking to better understand the situation, rather than assuming that you already know what is going on or that you already have all the answers.

Ask questions to understand the situation.

Use prompts such as "Really? Tell me more" and "How can I help?'"

Be genuine when asking these questions and in your desire to better understand and to help.


6. Shhh!! Keep quiet


Give your M8 a chance to think, especially at the beginning of the conversation.

Don't panic and fill the silence.


It takes people a few seconds to think. So don't rush in to rescue them from the silence.


7. Acknowledge 


Show that you have heard and have understood your workm8te by acknowledging what you have heard.


Remember: acknowledgement is not the same as agreement.

Repeat back what you have heard to show you understand.

  • 'What I am hearing is...'

  • 'How I am understanding the situation is ...'

  • 'Have I got this right….?'


8. Final questions 


Agree the way forward using the words "likelihood" and "when" to close the conversation.

  • '"What is the likelihood of you being able to get this done and by when?"

  • "What is the likelihood that you could teach X and by when?"

Finish with asking "and how can I help you?"

This shows your support and empowers your workm8te to take ownership of the solution.


9. Be consistent


Keep the conversation going – check back in as-needed until the issue is resolved.

Have conversations about the good and the bad - not just when things go wrong.

Having regular conversations with your workm8tes helps you to understand one another and build a connection – this makes it easier if you need to raise something difficult.


10. Set the example - act on feedback 


As a leader, your workm8tes look to you to set the tone and expectations for their behaviour. 

If a workm8te provides you with feedback about your leadership style or a workplace issue, take the feedback on board and take positive action to address the issue and change your behaviour.

By modelling positive ways of accepting feedback, you are being the example for how you would like your workm8tes to constructively respond to feedback when they receive it from you.

 
Want to know more about how to communicate with impact?

Take a look at the guides we've made for you from the supervisor's communication toolbox.


GET TO KNOW YOUR WORKM8TES

DO YOU KNOW THE MENTAL HEALTH OF YOUR WORKPLACE?
TAKE THE WORKER WELLBEING SURVEY
WORK PLACE RISK ASSESSMENT
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