Tips for Addressing Crucial Conversations in the Workplace

Have you ever had to face an uncomfortable conversation pertaining to an issue in the workplace, whether it be with a disgruntled employee or a disagreement with a coworker? Where it is clear that both parties are uncomfortable, tensions typically run high and both parties usually leave the conversation frustrated and confused. Most leaders understand that these types of conversations must take place in order to resolve conflict, yet how many times have you postponed and/or avoided these conversations all together? Navigating these types of conversations can be difficult and require a certain level of expertise to ensure success. Below are several tips to help you navigate through these crucial conversations.

1. Pinpoint the real issue. When there is an issue in the workplace, it is critical to the success of the conversation to identify the real issue. To accomplish this, you should ask yourself “What exactly is the behavior causing the problem and how is this behavior impacting the department or the organization?” It is crucial to identify the issue in one or two concise statements, otherwise you run the risk of overwhelming the receiving party with irrelevant information. It is your responsibility as a leader to identity, understand and manage the emotions during these difficult discussions.

2. Begin with the end in mind. A good leader will begin with the end in mind when determining a solution to the issue. You should start by determining what you wish to accomplish with the conversation. It is important to not leave the conversation open ended. Don’t finish the conversation before you clearly express action items or objectives.

3. Be optimistic, keep an open mind and remain a good listener. When having these crucial conversations, keep an open mind about possible solutions. Listen to learn, not just to hear. It is important to remain respectful and maintain composure.

4. Beginning the conversation. The key to beginning the conversation is to be direct and to the point. Don’t beat around the bush and don’t expect the other party to read your mind. Be up front, yet be respectful of the other party’s feelings. Ensure you are aware of your tone and body language and are using both appropriately.

5. Location is key. It is important to consider the location when it comes to having crucial conversations. It is best to pick a quiet, mutual location. It is important that the other party doesn’t feel threatened or uncomfortable before the conversation begins.

6. Continuing the relationship. Sometimes it is awkward to move forward following a crucial conversation. It is imperative to preserve the professional relationship so the two parties can continue to work together in the future. To preserve the relationship, you must remain mindful of the other party’s dignity. You should always treat the other party with respect, even if you wholeheartedly disagree with him/her.

7. Maintaining consistency. As a leader it is important that your objective is fair and that you use a consistent approach when having these crucial conversations. Employees trust a leader who is consistent because it eliminates the risk of second-guessing where the leader stands on important issues such as acceptable behaviors and workplace values.

8. Embrace the silence. A good leader will embrace silence during these crucial conversations and won’t rush to fill the time with words. Silence within the conversation allows the listener to digest and interpret what was said. Allowing each party the opportunity to think through his/her response before speaking can be more productive and lead to a better outcome.

9. Ensure appropriate follow-up. A good leader follows up after a crucial conversation to avoid awkward interactions in the future. Often, the other party involved was so focused on the issues addressed that he/she failed to hear the most important part – the action steps.

For more tips on how to address crucial conversations in a productive manner, please reference the article below or call CBS at 785-233-7860. We would be pleased to assist you with your communication skills or with any other HR issues your business or organization may be experiencing.

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