As the global pandemic grinds on, there is no avoiding big conversations in the workplace. Whether you need to lay people off, reduce hours, talk about pay cuts or simply manage complaints and problems within your teams, the big conversations will crop up.

Dealing with those big conversations can be tricky. But prepare yourself now and you could take the sting out of the tail when it comes to sitting your team down and tackling the problems when they arise. Here are some ideas for handling difficult conversations:

Get straight to the point

Don’t prance around the subject for fear of being too direct. Get to the point as quickly as you can. The team member you’re speaking to will just want to hear the facts without having to sit through a preamble. Being direct makes having difficult conversations a little less painful. It may seem harsh to dive straight in but the person you’re talking to will thank you for not delaying the inevitable.

Plan what you’re going to say

Take some time to decide what you’re going to say during the conversation. Don’t dive in on the spur of the moment. Plan your conversation and take the time to anticipate how the person you’re talking to might react. Think ahead about the questions they might ask you so you have the answers prepared. The more time you put in now, the easier it will be to have an open and honest conversation without emotions and awkwardness getting in the way.

Be specific

Clarify why you’re having the conversation and be honest and specific with the facts and the feedback you give. Explain why you’re having this conversation and exactly what it means for your team member. The more honest and straightforward you can be, the better the news will be received.

Choose your words carefully

Make sure the language you use is as positive as possible. Encourage your team member and spell out how the topic of the conversation will impact on them, their job and their career. Don’t offer false promises but outline any help and assistance you can offer as an employer.

Outline the next steps

Don’t simply deliver the bad news then usher them out of your office. Offer them some advice or solutions to their situation or encourage them to seek help from elsewhere. Tell them what will happen next so they’re in no doubt about what’s expected of them and how they move forward.

Stay professional

Even during difficult conversations you should always remain professional and even-tempered. If you show emotions, the chances are the other person will too. Stay calm. That way, the recipient of the bad news will react in a similar fashion.

Be empathetic

While it’s crucial to stay professional and calm during difficult conversations, it’s equally important to show some empathy too. Before you even have the conversation, think about how it will make the other person feel and allow some time during the talk for them to process the messages and their resulting emotions.

If the person you’re talking to starts to struggle, pause for a moment to allow them to compose themselves. Explain, clearly, why you’re having the conversation and how you would like them to proceed from this point.

Answer the questions arising from the conversation

Not only will encouraging questions enable the receiver of the news to process the information you’ve given them, but you can also ensure they fully understand the impact of the news too. If they seem to have misunderstood any part of the message you’re trying to convey, use questions to clarify.

How do you manage difficult conversations?

If you or your business needs any further help or advice, contact us and we’ll see what we can do to help. We can be contacted by calling 0191 643 6000 or emailing business.forum@northtyneside.gov.uk, or you can contact us on our Facebook page using private messages. You can also view more information about moving forward on our campaign page.

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