Have you ever had to arrange a meeting with an employee to have a difficult conversation?

Chances are that as a manager you will have to have difficult conversations with your employees at some point during your career. These conversations could consist poor performance, disciplinary action, a staff grievance or even worse, ending employment. Nobody enjoys these conversations; they can be awkward, hostile and provoke several different emotions from the employee and it’s tricky to pre-empt how the employee will react. Would you know what to do if an employee broke down in front of you pleading for you to reconsider based on their struggle with mental illness? It’s no wonder managers sometimes dread these exchanges. Studies have shown that difficult conversations add to stress levels and anxiety amongst respondents. More than 1 in 10 people say they slept badly or had nightmares in the lead up to a difficult work conversation and it goes without saying that this apprehension will no doubt affect performance at work. It is vital that as a manager you feel confident and able to have difficult conversations with your employees to effectively address any workplace issues.

Good leaders are essential for effective business operations

As a manager you are the shining beacon lighting the way to your team’s success. If the team isn’t working in cohesion, it is likely that you are not getting the best out of your employees and overall team performance will decrease. This is bad for everyone.

So, how can you prepare for these difficult conversations and ensure you handle them effectively?

Here at Connect, we believe in following PATHS.

  1. Purpose. Make sure your meeting has a clear, defined purpose that is constructive to reach your desired end goal.
  2. Approach. Ensure your approach is positive, empathetic and evidence driven. Focus not only on highlighting the issue but on listening to the employee’s side of the story.
  3. Trust. It is important to establish trust and a safe environment so that the employee feels free to discuss the problem without fear of ramification. By fostering a trusting culture, you are more likely to discover the honest and real reasons behind the problems.
  4. Human. Remember, we are all human and make mistakes from time to time. Ask and listen so that you can better understand the problem and therefore create a more effective solution.
  5. Share. Collaborate with the employee to come to a solution together. Allowing them to be involved in fixing the problem creates a sense of responsibility and makes them feel that their input is valued.

By applying PATHS you will feel more prepared and able to conduct these difficult conversations with your employees. Have you heard that age-old saying ‘practise makes perfect’? Practising what you are going to say and preparing how you will respond to the most likely scenarios will empower you to succeed in these meetings. If you’d rather practise these situations with real-time human responses, you might want to look at our training packages and see how we can support you further.