How to Make Difficult Conversations with Your Employers Easier

Whether you are reprimanding an employee for inappropriate behavior or presiding over a poor performance review, difficult conversations with employees are an inevitable part of management.  How can you prepare for this type of discussion?  How do you find the right words to say?  The key is to learn how to talk to your employee in a way that will produce a better outcome.  Here’s what you need to know before engaging in a difficult conversation with an employee.

Don’t Be Impulsive

As long as there are jobs to be had there will be employees who come to work late, dress inappropriately, flirt with coworkers, or use vulgar language.  In these types of situations it can be easy for a manager to get so frustrated that they lose their cool.  The problem with impulsive conversations is that they end up getting heated and cause the employee to get defensive, which is not productive for anyone.  Instead of acting on emotion, managers need to document the behavior and set up a time to talk with the employee.  This allows managers to take the time to prepare for the conversation and decide how they are going to approach the problem.

Use a Soft Entry

Giving employees a less than stellar performance review can be uncomfortable for everyone involved.  The best way to approach this type of conversation is to do so gently.  Rather than just jumping right into the feedback, give the employee a chance to brace themselves for potentially embarrassing feedback.  Tell them that you have to talk to them about something that is difficult to share. You can also explain that it is not easy for you to talk with them, but you respect them and want to help them succeed.

Keep it Straightforward

The best feedback is straightforward and simple.  Beating around the bush doesn’t help anyone and only adds to the employee’s frustration.  Let the employee know that you are talking with them because it is an issue that is important for the success of the company. Avoid the temptation to bring others into the conversation who aren’t present.  For example, don’t start the conversation by saying that other employees have complained about their behavior.  Instead, take responsibility for the feedback and be straightforward about it.

Use it as a Coaching Opportunity

As a business manager, it is up to you to equip your employees with everything they need to be successful.  Difficult conversations can be turned into something positive when you take the right approach.  Once you have addressed the problem with your employee, offer suggestions for how they can improve.  It is important for them to know that you are committed to helping them even when they are facing challenges.  Outline your expectations and explain how the employee might be missing the mark.  Together, come up with clear goals and objectives so they know which direction to move in.

Create the Right Setting

Giving your employee negative feedback when others are around will leave them feeling angry and embarrassed.    Invite them to talk over a cup of coffee or lunch if the dialogue is less than serious.  If it is a major issue, you might need to deliver the performance review or address the issue in a common meeting spot such as a conference room.  Regardless of the situation, selecting a safe environment will make everyone feel more comfortable.

Don’t let difficult conversations stand in the way of your success as a manager.  Instead, learn how to engage with your employees in a way that is encouraging and will produce positive results.