Your best stylist has been late for work almost every day this month. She’s even missed a couple of appointments. You’ve worked together for years, and you know this isn’t like her. It’s time to have a talk. Now where do you start?
Difficult conversations cause most of us some level of anxiety. We’re taught “Don’t open that can of worms”. We may tell ourselves, “I’m too busy to deal with it right now”, or “it probably won’t change anything anyway.”
Avoiding a difficult conversation will cause more harm in the long-run. It affects your work environment, and your customers will start to feel the tension. You need to deal with the situation before it’s too late.
Before you have a difficult conversation, think about your purpose. Do you just need to clear the air? Is this a warning before termination? Is there an accusation of misconduct?
If the discussion is a last warning before termination, or involves something more serious like harassment or substance abuse, talk to someone who can advise you beforehand. You may need another person in the room with you or you may need to have the conversation documented.
Stick to the Facts
No matter how hurt or angry you feel, leave your emotions out of the discussion. Stick with facts and observations. Your message needs to be specific, simple, and clearly stated. Don’t throw in other minor issues or the other person will start to feel attacked.
Ask Thoughtful Questions
Don’t assign a motive to the person’s actions before you speak to them. You may have heard rumors or created your own reasons for the person’s behavior. Instead, ask simple, thoughtful, and open-ended questions. It’s better to simply ask why the person has been late and missed appointments three times this week than to suggest personal issues are the cause or ask about their health. Give them a chance to explain.
Now that the conversation is progressing, make sure you’re practicing active listening. Even if you’re skeptical of their answers, don’t show it. Continue to ask follow-up questions to get to the truth. Ask for clarification when you don’t understand something.
Agree on a Solution
Once you’ve had a chance to hear their story, move toward finding a solution. It may be as simple as scheduling appointments later in the day, or moving to a more part-time work schedule. Or it may be time for the person to move on. Talk through several options, and make sure you both agree on an acceptable solution.
Before you go, recap your discussion. Some difficult conversations require a warning. Make sure the consequences of not following through are clear. Suggest a follow-up meeting to talk about how things are going.
The consequences of handling a difficult conversation poorly may be a direct impact to your profits or the lost of employees or customers. However, when difficult conversations are handled well, productivity, collaboration, and morale goes up. After all, handling difficult conversations is at the core of all relationships.
Communication expert Lisa B. Marshall (www.lisabmarshall.com), is author of best-selling book Smart Talk & web-based course Powerful Presenter, host of the Public Speaker, a free top iTunes podcast and delivers consulting and workshops.
Listen to Lisa B. Marshall live May 16th at 11:00 am est on Hair Artist Association Radio Show. This one show you do not want to miss.
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