Mastering Tough Conversations in the Workplace

Even in a casual, collaborative office space filled with ping pong tables and bean bag chair corners, tough times happen. And when they do, it often falls on management to turn the ship around.

Doing so starts and ends with effective communication, which is something that can be difficult to do well. Consider, for example, the dreaded workplace meeting.

46% of employees rarely or never leave a meeting with a clear understanding of next steps. If everyday conversations at work are tough to master, where do you even begin when approaching more sensitive subjects?

In answering that question, let’s take a look at a handful of potential tough conversations you may face in the workplace and how to handle them.

Poor Performance Review

It’s never easy telling someone they’re not doing a good job. But keeping someone ill-informed of their performance level is a disservice to both employee and employer.

When walking into a performance review, the discussion you’re about to have shouldn’t come as a surprise to your employee. If you’ve been managing and holding one-on-ones with team members, they should be aware of their strengths and weaknesses.

Avoid sugar coating the situation and present them with facts that support your argument. It also never hurts to document instances of their poor performance for reference.

Allow them to ask questions. And save time to discuss a detailed plan of action that will help them realign to company expectations.

Employee Disagreements

A team of many personalities is sure to encounter its fair share of disagreements. The trick is to mediate sooner rather than later.

Your job throughout will be to listen first and talk later. Ask questions and evoke factual information rather than emotions and assumptions. This will help you in digging to the root of the issue and supplying a solution for moving forward.

Unhappy Clients

Whether you work as a team of one or in an agency setting, unhappy clients are often part of the territory. They may not always be “right” in their dissatisfaction but remain professional.

Letting your emotions get the better of you is an easy way to end up with a contract lost and revenue out the window. Take the time to listen and if your team made a mistake, own it. It’s more respectable to take the blame—when deserved—and apologize, than to meet arguments with excuses.

If you don’t believe you’re in the wrong, express your perspective with relevant evidence. You may be able to salvage the relationship on both ends by further clarifying points of contention and expectations.

Letting Someone Go

One of the most difficult conversations you may ever face as a manager is letting someone go. It can involve many emotions from shock to anger, which is why it’s best to always prepare for the worst.

You’ll want to enter the meeting with answers to potential questions, while also keeping discussion short and sweet. And more often than not, the person let go won’t want to stick around long anyway.

Avoid getting too detailed and convoluted with the reasoning for termination. If they push for further explanation, remain calm and restate the reasoning provided. In these situations where emotions are at a high, stick to the facts and stay consistent.

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