Managing Difficult Conversations

If you manage people, you’ve undoubtedly been faced with difficult conversations. Having to tell an employee that he’s not performing well, advising a subordinate that she’s not going to get that promotion or the conversation that gives the most angst, terminating an employee.

Managers can follow a few basic principles to lessen the impact of the difficult conversation. For instance, delaying a performance conversation isn’t helpful for the employee and can create a toxic environment if the employee’s performance is affecting coworkers. Ensure you address issues in person, not through email, and that you clearly outline what is expected and where the employee can improve.

Using “we” rather than “you” can help soften the message while still delivering the same information. e.g. “you didn’t service the customer properly and now they’re threatening to move their account” vs. “our customers are our number one priority and we need to ensure they’re receiving the expected service level”. Elaborating on the specifics will give the employee the baseline on what needs to be improved and by saying “we” instead of “you”, the employee is less likely to be defensive from the outset of the conversation.

No matter how seasoned you are, these conversations are challenging. However, how you deliver the message can have a more positive impact on the employee and your ongoing manager/employee relationship.

Post by: Lynn McIlwee