Sep 20, 2023 1:20:08 PM

5 Effective Ways to Handle Difficult Conversations in The Workplace

One of the common challenges managers face is dealing with difficult workplace conversations.

Whether it involves addressing office politics, intervening in employee disputes, investigating reports of inappropriate office behavior, turning down requests, providing poor performance reviews or simply managing staff’s expectations – there’s no easy way to discuss difficult issues and resolve concerns.

Nevertheless, initiating these hard conversations is the first step to making employees feel heard, valued and supported.

Effective communication with your team and proactive handling of tough situations not only prevents problems from escalating but also empowers employees to focus on more important matters, such as:

  • boosting productivity,
  • building meaningful relationships
  • achieving business goals.

In this article, we will share some approaches to help you navigate strenuous conversations and cultivate a more open and healthier workplace environment.

How to handle difficult workplace conversations

  1. Stop delaying the conversation from happening.

One study showed that 70% of employees dread conflict and confrontations, so they would often run away from having scary conversations with their boss or colleagues.

The responsibility, then, falls in your hands as a manager or business leader to tackle concerns head-on and engage in discussions before employee issues escalate into bigger problems for your organization.

These difficult conversations might feel awkward and uncomfortable at times. However, avoiding them could potentially lead to increased anxiety, resentment and tension for you and your employees.

To ensure that all parties achieve a sense of relief and peace of mind, proactively communicating with your team is key.

  1. Establish a clear objective for the workplace conversation and communicate it to the other party involved.

What’s your purpose in initiating this conversation with an employee?

Are you going to provide them with feedback on their performance? Do they need to undergo a disciplinary process? Could their job be at risk? Or perhaps you just want to understand what has been bothering them lately.

Regardless of the reason, make sure you give the employee advance notice so that they can emotionally and mentally prepare for the conversation or meeting.

You might also consider setting an agenda to ensure that all points of concern are addressed. In addition, it’s recommended that you choose a neutral location for the conversation (such as a meeting room, coffee shop or even via video conference!) where both you and employees will feel comfortable sharing.

  1. Keep emotions in check and focus on understanding the facts.

What actually happened and how you feel about what happened are two different things. So, strive to be both logical and empathetic in your approach.

Be objective and take into account all important factors before confronting employees and make sure to stick to the facts when dealing with conflicts.

Don’t let assumptions, past experiences and personal biases cloud your judgment.

Communication at workplace

There can also be instances where employees can’t help but be emotional, so try to put yourselves in their situation, be more understanding about their feelings and respond to them more compassionately. 

  1. Practice active listening.

Learn to listen attentively and remain open-minded.

After all, conversation is a two-way street – you must also hear and understand other people’s perspectives and sides of the story to effectively address all concerns and issues involved.

To keep your employees engaged in the workplace conversation (and show that you’re paying attention!), don’t be afraid to make eye contact, ask questions, clarify misunderstandings and summarize important points.

  1. Collaborate and come up with solutions.

You initiated the conversation with the goal of finding common ground and a resolution that benefits both the employee and your organization.

So, make sure you’re open to hearing about their suggestions, ideas and opinions to find a solution.

Whether it’s managing employee misconduct, realigning expectations or negotiating a salary raise, it is important to keep them involved in planning the next course of action.

Collaborate with your staff and encourage their participation. Only then they will remain motivated to contribute to the success of your business.

Bonus tip: foster trust and create an environment where feedback is always welcome.

Did you know that for over 40% of employees, poor communication negatively impacts trust both in leadership and their team?

Hence, as a manager or business leader, you must encourage open communication to facilitate healthy workplace conversations.

One way to accomplish this is by providing safe spaces where employees can voice their opinions and discuss even the most difficult topics without fearing negative consequences.

This can be through:

  • one-on-one meetings
  • catch-up sessions
  • or participating in anonymous polls and surveys like those conducted with VibeCatch.

The good news is that not only can these polls and surveys inform you about your team’s sentiments, but they can also provide you with valuable insights and feedback to improve team collaboration and culture. 

Download QWL White Paper

VibeCatch empowers you to actively listen to and understand your staff

In the digital age, data is king, and regularly measuring your employee engagement and well-being levels equips you with valuable insights that can enhance your work environment for everyone.

At VibeCatch, we offer the ideal way to proactively listen and communicate with your team so you can foster healthy relationships and reduce the turnover of your best employees.

Built on science, our platform collects frequent and anonymous feedback from employees and delivers an automatic and clear breakdown of the results to help you make smarter decisions for your people.

What is VibeCatch?

VibeCatch is an HR platform based on 15 years of proven research, offering you the opportunity to make a genuine difference and understand the impact that your working environment has on your staff.

Through VibeCatch’s QWL Polls, Pulse Polls and 360 Feedback Polls, you can uncover hidden staffing opportunities, correct issues and address areas of improvement for both employees and management within your organization.

Speak to our team today to see a live demo.


Download Vaisala Case Study  

Communication QWL work culture employee engagement Workplace communication

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Posted by Juha Huttunen

Juha Huttunen
Juha is a Co-founder and the CEO of VibeCatch. A serial entrepreneur, technology enthusiast and geek with 15+ years of experience in startups, sales, leadership and growing business. To Juha, measuring improvements in performance and putting them in quantifiable and monetary terms is VibeCatch’s greatest strength.

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