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Difficult Conversations in the Workplace

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How we approach our day-to-day interactions in the workplace matter. Whether you are a manager speaking to your employees or an associate addressing an issue with a colleague, what we say and how we say it is important. Unfortunately, those conversations are not always based around positive issues. An employee’s poor performance, neglect or firing are just a few examples of unpleasant but typical workplace conversations. Although these types of interactions may be rare, they do occur and must be handled with the utmost care and attention.

When speaking to someone in the workplace regarding an unpleasant situation, be sure to state your point directly and be sure to give detailed examples of your case. This will help clarify your point and best explain the situation. Often, we believe we must fill the conversation with an abundance of compliments and rosy language, but it is essential you be direct with your points so they are retained and impactful.

In addition, be sure to have a plan and choose your words carefully. Organize your thoughts ahead of time and plan out what you would like to say during the beginning, middle and end of the conversation. Do not leave these types of conversations unplanned as they may come across as frazzled, disjointed and confusing. In addition, be sure to explain what you would like to see happen from that point moving forward and what the ideal circumstance would be. For example, explain the appropriate process or timeline for various projects instead of simply condemning negligent behavior.

Furthermore, be sure to maintain a positive tone throughout the conversation. Remember, the person on the receiving end may not be expecting this conversation. When most people are approached in a negative way, they tend to become defensive and/or argumentative. Try to avoid making anyone feel this way. Instead, maintain a positive tone and one that makes the person feel at ease and comfortable to accept the information they are being given.

Office conflicts and discrepancies are never easy situations to overcome but they do arise and must be addressed. The key is to not let any of these situations go unaddressed for too long. You want to get to the root of the problem to avoid repetition. As long as you handle each situation with care and respect, you are sure to strengthen the team.

-Dina Barabash, NASBA Content Development & Web Specialist