Having difficult conversations with employees

Having difficult conversations with employees

Ever felt like hiding in the corner, or pretending like nothing is wrong, all in an effort to avoid having a difficult conversation with an employee?

You’re not alone. It’s human nature to avoid difficult or confronting conversations. Whether it’s in your personal or business life, summoning the courage to have a difficult conversation can leave you feeling like you’d rather slink away and hide in the corner. However, it is important to understand the impact that this may have on your business.

Why you need to have difficult conversations with your staff

Everyone is looking to you as the leader of the business. You set the tone of your business and heavily influence the culture that is created within your team, work environment and overall business. 

What you walk past in the office, you accept. So making the decision to not have a crucial conversation may be seen by others in your team as accepting the behaviour that is occurring.

There are a number of reasons you may need to have a difficult conversation with an employee, including:

  • Performance that is below expectations
  • Behaviour that is unprofessional or inappropriate
  • Actions that aren’t in line with the values that you expect within the business

It is much easier to avoid having these conversations, but then the behaviour or performance continues, and as a result, other employees can become disgruntled or unhappy. The worst-case scenario is that the employees that are aligned and delivering what is required for the business, end up getting frustrated and leave. You lose the quality employees and retain the problems.

It only takes one employee to impact the culture of the entire business.

man and a woman talking

Managing difficult conversations with employees

Managing difficult conversations with employees can be uncomfortable. Like any muscle we underuse, if you aren’t putting in the training or preparation to improve your ability to handle difficult conversations, they will always remain hard.

Another point of view is to consider the alternative. Are you willing to sacrifice a great workplace culture just for a few infrequent courageous conversations, and risk losing employees who are really valuable to your business?

It is possible to create an environment that is fun and energetic, and still keep your staff accountable. By having timely conversations when the poor performance, behaviour or actions are first noticed, can go a long way in ensuring your business culture remains positive.

In the majority of cases holding the conversation actually relieves any pressure that has been building and many business owners question why they didn’t just take charge and have the conversation earlier.

How do you talk to an employee about their poor performance?

If you're ready to have a conversation with an employee about their poor performance, behaviour or actions, then here are some useful tips to help you prepare.

  1. Be prepared for the discussion – understand the situation and your objective
  2. Manage the emotion from the conversation and personally stay calm
  3. Use the below courageous conversations model to create an outline for your conversation
  4. Follow up with the employee after the conversation 
balloons with statements

Do you have any difficult conversations you’ve been putting off?

By taking action and having difficult conversations sooner rather than later can lead to a more happy and fulfilled team, and overall a more profitable business.

If you’ve been putting off difficult conversations with employees in your business, then take action now. Write down 3 or 4 conversations that you have been pushing to the side and give yourself a deadline within the next week to have these conversations.

Joshna discussing in an activity

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