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How to Navigate Difficult Conversations


Having difficult conversations is unfortunately a part of the working world. Not everything in the workplace is easy or positive, and leaders are tasked with the responsibility of delivering bad news on occasion. But being able to manage these difficult conversations is a skill that is truly essential, and will ensure that employees still feel valued and respected with company morale remaining high – even when times are tough.

Managers often need to have difficult conversations with their team. They are the ones who have to address employee performance issues, relay company problems, and deliver bad news like layoffs and terminations. If a leader can navigate these conversations successfully, however, there will be less turmoil overall.

There are a few ways for a manager to prepare for the eventual difficult conversation. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you get ready for a potentially negative meeting:

  • Prepare yourself. Find out everything you can about the situation before you have the difficult conversation. You want to be able to answer any questions they may have.
  • Be ready for the conversation. Make sure you know what you want to achieve with the discussion.
  • Choose the right time and place. Clear the area of distractions and make it an open forum for feedback after you deliver the news.
  • Deliver the message promptly and clearly. Focus on the facts and tell the truth about the situation. Don’t become emotional or angry.
  • Try to see their view. Put yourself in their shoes and think about how you would want to hear what you are delivering to them.
  • Listen actively. You should empathize, acknowledge, respect and validate the other person’s feelings. Don’t take their reactions personally – they may just be upset at the news.
  • Be open-minded and willing to negotiate. Sometimes negotiation can help a situation. If there is wiggle room try to work with them.

HRDQ has resources that can help with difficult discussions. “Navigating Difficult Conversations: Deliver Your Message with Poise, Empathy, and Resolve” is a reproducible title that will allow participants to understand the nature of difficult conversations and what it takes to handle them. Participants will be able to identify the seven stages of handling difficult conversations, learn how to use empathy in a way that minimizes negative responses and strengthens relationships, apply best practices for delivering the conversation, and learn how to bring the conversation to a close with solutions. Click here to learn more:

For further learning, HRDQ hosted a free webinar you can Watch here.  The webinar will allow attendees to walk away with the skills to tackle any tricky situation in the workplace. They will learn what it takes to handle these conversations, see how identify the stages of difficult conversations, develop ways to use empathy to strengthen relationships, learn how to prepare, initiate, and deliver the conversation, and discover how to generate solutions in difficult situations.

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