How to have difficult conversations in 3 easy steps | WWA

Lately a lot of people have been telling me how they do not like conflict and in many situations, will avoid it at all cost.  Particularly in the workplace.  The problem is the conflict is still out there, and as it is not addressed, it will grow.  Resentment builds, sensitivity to mistakes escalate and everyone around you can start feeling that tension and feel uneasy themselves, not really understanding why.
This is not the type of workplace environment I want to work in, and I don’t want any of you to be feeling this way either.  So here are my 3 steps to addressing the conflict head on and releasing that negative energy for good.

  1. Start by speaking to the facts of the situation only

When we add our own judgement or generalise an issue, the person you are addressing will immediately go on the defensive.  This will make the conversation much harder to get through and reach a combined resolution.  Here’s an example:
“You are always running late” instead you could state “On Monday 4th, Tuesday 5th and Wednesday the 6th you have arrived at the office at 9:10am which is 10 minutes past your start time.  Can you tell me why?”
Or perhaps you received a customer complaint.  Have the complaint written out, inform the employee of the complaint as accurately as possible and let them know you want to hear their side of the story.

  1. Actively listen to their response

People like to feel they are being heard and when they feel this way, the environment becomes safer to share.  Respect this person’s sharing of their perspective by keeping your body language towards them, minimising interruptions and keeping eye contact.  If you would like to take notes, let them know you are doing this so you can understand the situation better.  Ask questions if there is a point you do not understand.  Listen to everything they wish to tell you.  No judgements, no actions yet.  Just what they have to say.

  1. Reflect back to them how this situation has affected you and the business

Now you can share with the other person how their actions have affected you, your work or the business as a whole.  For example, “By arriving at 9:10am, I have to answer the phones, which keep me from packing customer orders and delays the deliveries all day.”
Share the reason why you have set the standard for the business and why it is so important.
Now the facts are made clear, both sides feel they have been able to express their view of the problem, you can move together towards solution mode.  The right solution will ensure a process is in place to make sure the performance standard is always aimed for and the conflict does not arise again.

As an experienced performance coach, I understand these conversations are never going to feel completely easy for some individuals.  Particularly when the issue is serious, personal or because of perceived dishonesty.  If a situation arises at your work place that feels very serious or you feel ‘too heated’ to address calmly, then call Sam at Connecting HR on 0425 232 646 to assist you.

Sam Crisford-Eade is a Human Resources Coach with over 17 years hands on and strategic HR experience in a variety of industries.  Sam understands the demands placed on business owners and what they need from their people.  Connecting HR is your on-call HR Manager for small to medium size businesses that can assist people in lifting their performance, and becoming truly authentic, innovative and contributing team members.

For more information on her services and the ways in which she can help you to obtain your business goals, check out