Tips for having difficult conversations with employees

By KMC Human Resources

26 Nov 2015

There are few people in life that truly relish the prospect of confrontation. However, it often happens that the more you put something off the worse a problem it becomes - either perpetuating the issue or allowing it to manifest into a bigger problem than it actually is.

This is certainly the case as far as difficult conversations with employees go. Regardless of the reason behind the conversation; be it to address a performance or conduct issue, in relation to timekeeping or attendance, or perhaps on a topic that's altogether more personal; 'difficult conversations' can be all too easy to put off.

Here are some top tips for managers on how to approach and conduct 'difficult conversations' with employees:

Don't delay but don't rush!

Timing a difficult conversation is troublesome - you don't want to give too much advance notice, leaving the employee worrying what the meeting is about but equally, you don't want to ambush the employee or else rush into it and risk failing to achieve your objectives. It’s important to consider the outcome you want to achieve and the best approach to make this happen; avoiding ‘knee-jerk’ reactions to a problem.

To avoid any unnecessary anxiety for the employee, be considerate in the timing of the meeting, giving an appropriate period of notice. Most of all, once you have set a date, stick to it – don’t put it off any longer than needs be.

Decide on your desired outcomeBefore the discussion even commences, take a step back and some time to think about what you want the end result of the meeting to be. This will vary depending on the subject of the meeting but potential outcomes may be an apology, an explanation or a tangible action. Try to direct the conversation down the correct course in order to achieve this, bearing in mind your audience. People learn, react and work in different ways so you need to consider the individual you are addressing in achieving your desired outcome.

Keep your ears open

Whilst you may have called the meeting and set the agenda, it is vital that you allow the employee an opportunity to explain their side. Try to remain open to listening to their views – even if this means temporarily ‘parking’ or deviating from your agenda. Busy managers can struggle to find time to listen to their employees but this is often all that is required. Creating an opportunity for open dialogue and allowing an employee to air their views can have a significant impact in a difficult situation. For more help and advice from our HR experts on how to deal with employee issues, please get in touch. KMC HR offer a free initial hour for any clients that are new to us.

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