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10 Tips to Gain Confidence in Having Difficult Conversations

  1. Don’t wait. Have conversations often and provide feedback regularly addressing what is working well and what needs to improve. Letting it fester is not good for you or your employees.

  2. Change your mindset. Assume the meeting will go well and that you and your employee will benefit from this dialogue. Be positive and enter the conversation with energy.

  3. Prepare beforehand. Have your information thought out and organized. What do you know? What do you need to know from your employee? What do you want to learn? Most likely you will not have all the answers.

  4. Practice having these conversations. Talk it out with the family pet, and practice language and tone. Do not script it out, just practice the dialogue. Have key points prepared but let the conversation flow naturally.

  5. Manage your emotions. What tools do you have if the emotions start to escalate, as they often do? Keep calm, breathe, and redirect the conversation to fact-based statements. The more you stay in control, the better the conversation will go. Always acknowledge the positive things this employee offers the organization.

  6. Be empathetic. Clearly explain why you are having this meeting. Pause and let the employee gather their thoughts and emotions. Learn to sit, wait and listen, employees need to be heard. Ensure the employee understands why you are providing the feedback – not to fire them but to resolve the issue/incident.

  7. Brainstorm together. Have points that you want to brainstorm for solutions with the employee. Ask open-ended questions so that the employee is engaged in the building of solutions.

  8. Take a break. As needed to keep calm and refocus, take a break. Don’t delay too long but consider 15 minutes to visit a washroom, get some fresh air, grab a coffee as may be helpful and needed.

  9. Agree to disagree. It is ok if you do not agree on everything, but in the end, what is needed for the business, is the working relationship, safety, and productivity of all employees. Can you both give a little bit? Find the road to success.

  10. Document the outcomes, decisions, corrective actions, and next steps. Do follow-up as needed with the employee, and others impacted by the outcomes.


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