Having a difficult or challenging conversation at work can be a daunting prospect and easy to put off, but if you follow a few simple hints and tips you can achieve your desired outcome.

What is a challenging conversation?

Conversations which are potentially stressful for both parties which are sensitive in nature and can involve heightened emotions.

When would I have a challenging conversation?

  • As part of a process such as a capability or disciplinary.
  • To discuss workplace tension or conflict.
  • To address employee well-being, mental health or other personal issue.

How do I approach a challenging conversation?

  • Don’t put it off! Having the conversation early on can often prevent matters escalating.
  • Prepare and write a script if necessary. Have all the facts available.
  • Try to anticipate likely reaction from the employee so you can plan how best to respond.
  • Ask open questions, be sympathetic and empathetic.
  • Be mindful of your body language – keep it open, calm and composed.

What can go wrong?

  • You don’t get your message across.
  • Emotions become heightened.
  • The person becomes resistant or withdraws from the meeting.

Key points to remember:

  • Always have your difficult conversation in an appropriate, confidential location.
  • Keep the meeting balanced, and on track.
  • Everyone is individual, so consider varying personalities.
  • If things get heated it’s okay to pause, take a break and resume.
  • Always end the meeting by clearly summarising the position and next steps
  • The more challenging conversations you have, the more confident you become.

Your link HR Consultants in the Education HR team can offer further advice, support and training.