Strategies for Having Tough Conversations with Your Employees

Often, the most difficult part of having tough conversations with employees is finding the confidence to begin. No matter how long you have been a manager, it is always a struggle to broach an uncomfortable subject. However, it is always better to talk as soon as problems arise, as waiting may just allow issues to become more serious.

With the right strategy, you can address the problem head on, direct the conversation your way, and gain the results you want.

  1. Stay Positive

Stay Positive

Your concerns about the conversation could be unfounded. By starting with a positive frame of mind, you can transform a negative experience into a constructive one.

Although some employees are unwilling to hear that they are doing something wrong, many are grateful for such feedback and welcome the opportunity to improve. Instead of beginning the conversation as a negative performance review, consider it as a chance to show your employee where to make changes. Frame mistakes as opportunities to do better.

  1. Keep Calm

Keep Calm

Sometimes, you will have the bad luck to need to talk to an employee who takes criticism badly. In these cases, it is up to you to prevent the situation from becoming worse. Never allow emotions to cloud your judgement — tough conversations should always be based on facts. If, at any time, you are unable to focus or convey your message, take a break.

  1. Plan for the Conversation

Plan for the Conversation

Even if the need to have a conversation is urgent, make sure you take some time to plan what to say. This will ensure you cover all the points, present a good argument, and have facts to back up what you are saying. When relevant, include solutions and goals for the future. This will show the employee what is expected and how to achieve such outcomes.

Never script a conversation — after all, it is impossible to know exactly what an employee will say. Instead, consider possible reactions and think about the best ways to respond. Make sure you will deliver a clear message without repeating yourself or exaggerating.

  1. See the Situation from Your Employee’s Perspective

See the Situation from Your Employee’s Perspective

It can be difficult to fully understand a situation unless you can see it from the perspectives of all the parties involved. Consider why the employee is behaving in a problematic way. If you are unsure, ask.

Furthermore, think about how you would like someone to deliver the same message to you. Consider this when planning the wording for key parts of the conversation. Aim to be compassionate without being patronizing.

  1. Encourage an Open Dialog

Encourage an Open Dialog

A conversation is never a speech. Throughout, your employee should have the chance to offer feedback, reasons, and other comments. Show that you are listening by focusing and never interrupting.

  1. Choose the Right Location

Choose the Right Location

If the problem is nothing too serious, you may prefer to have the conversation outside the workplace, such as over coffee. Prepare the employee for a feedback session or chat.

More serious conversations do require a formal setting. It is best to use your office or another private place. If it is unlikely that there will be any problems, the meeting can be one-on-one.

However, if the conversation is due to a policy violation, a serious behavior issue, or anything that could lead to disciplinary action, you may need to have a witness present. Your best choice is an HR representative, but other options include a manager in another department or an HR liaison. Make sure the witness knows his or her role in advance.

  1. Receive Legal Support

Receive Legal Support

In the case you need to terminate employment, you may need legal advice. Speak to the legal expert in your company or a lawyer who represents your business to ensure you are acting within the law and that there is no risk of further complications.

  1. Always Follow the Same Procedure

Always Follow the Same Procedure

You need to hold all your employees to the exact same standards. Set guidelines for when you should have conversations with team members.

If more than one employee is falling behind, make sure to have a conversation with each of them. If only one employee is having problems, try to keep your meeting confidential, informing only those who need to know about the conversation.

  1. Learn from Your Mistakes

Learn from Your Mistakes

Like everything else at work, having tough conversations is a learning experience. After the conversation, consider what went well and what you could do better. Use this to make improvements in the future.

Having tough conversations is one of the most difficult responsibilities of a manager. In addition to practice, you can get better by learning more about leadership and communication. Two excellent sources I personally recommend are the books Crucial Conversations — Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High and Radical Candor. If you are serious about improving in this area, consider these books as crucial tools.

Source: Boostability