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Sweeping Employee Training and Management

Preparing for and Conducting Difficult Conversations With Employees

Before you conduct difficult conversations with your management staff and/or employees, take time to prepare to maximize the possibility that the outcome will be the one you want.

by Ranger Kidwell-Ross
Posted in October, 2012.

Effective Communications' Techniques In every organization there are times when difficult conversations must be held with those working for you. Whether it is a discussion about an employee's poor performance, job restructuring, or many other topics, it is important that you conduct each conversation professionally and with advanced thought about the best outcome.

Before initiating a conversation, prepare for it by asking yourself several key questions. Additionally, if you will be discussing employee issues and you have a human resources person or similar resources available, consult with them prior to talking with the employee.

Make sure you are clear on what your purpose is for the conversation you'll be leading. Ask yourself what you hope to accomplish with the conversation as well as what the ideal outcome would be for your organization. Think about what the expected reaction(s) of the employee might be and be prepared for them.

As a friend who is an experienced trial attorney would remind me, be careful about asking any questions to which you do not already know the answer. Many a trial outcome, he says, has been determined by unexpected information being brought up.

If you will be discussing a specific issue, consider what "hot buttons" might surround the topic for both you and the person you will be talking to. Remain calm and make your responses thoughtful and measured, rather than being accusatory or jumping to conclusions.

If you can, practice the conversation you want to have with someone else and get their input on how it could be presented better. Alternatively, you could also mentally rehearse what you intend to say and/or make bulleted notes of how you would like to conduct the meeting.

Conducting the Conversation

Maximizing the possibility of a successful outcome will largely depend on what you say and how you say it. Both your approach and your behavior, including body language and tone of voice, will have an impact on how the information you are transmitting is perceived.

It's up to you to keep the conversation on track. guard against going down any side paths that distract from your goal. also keep track of where the conversation becomes emotional, if it does. Emotions play an important part of actions, past, present and future.

Techniques to Achieve a Successful Outcome

If your conversation is designed to find out information, approach it with an appropriate attitude. Forget about any prior assumptions you may have and use the session to learn as much as possible about the other person's point of view. Be a good listener and allow the employee to express themselves without interruption.

Once your employee has had their say, acknowledge that you've heard their point of view correctly. Often, the best way to do this is to paraphrase their argument back to them. This doesn't mean that you agree with them necessarily, but does reinforce that you have listened and understood their point of view.

Once you have done so, only then should you advocate your position and announce your decision, if any. Because you are making a decision that is counter to what they would like, it doesn't necessarily mean that their idea or argument is diminished. Rather, it means that you have listened to other perspectives and are now making a command decision that you believe will be best for your organization.

The final step in most conversations such as these is any problem-solving that needs to be done. If possible, start with any mutual areas of agreement that have been uncovered fire your conversation. Ideally, both you and the employee will agree on solutions and the steps that need to be taken to achieve them.

Throughout this entire process, keep your goal in mind. If you have a firm and continuing grasp on the outcome you wish to achieve for the good of your company and entire employee team, it will be much easier to not let your emotions come into play. You will also maximize possibility that your ultimate decision-making will be correct.

Ranger Kidwell-Ross is editor of If you have new information to provide on this topic, let him know and we can add it in as an addendum to this article.

This article was added to in October of 2012.

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