Navigating Difficult Conversations in the Workplace

As much as managers would like to be ‘the good guys’, some of the things they have to do will not be popular with the crew. Sometimes the business may be facing difficult challenges. It may be transforming into something very different at other times – however, change is fundamental to work. 

There will always come a time when we’ll have to address issues in the workplace in order to grow as a business and navigate difficult conversations.

Here are our tips to keep in mind when managing difficult conversations!


1. When is the Right Time?

First, you want to make sure to address the issue as early as possible. By taking control of it when it arises, you’ll minimise the impact it can have on other employees and workplace practices.

Second, organise a particular time for addressing the issue, don’t ambush people over the lunch break.

When is the Right Time

And third, allow people to take time to ask their questions and process information; tell them enough so that they understand, but don’t overbear them with excessive details. It’s a fine line; we know: try to be concise, clear and ready to explain.

Make the Message Clear

2. Make the Message Clear

You don’t have to write a big speech and learn it by heart, but it will be beneficial to have the main point of your talk solid and bold in your mind.

Write it down, work on the wording, practice aloud or even make yourself a little note to bring into the meeting.

Your words mustn’t be misleading. Of course, you don’t have to be blunt, but trying to soften or refocus your speech too much can result in something confusing or even looking like you are trying to hide the truth.

3. Be Respectful & Constructive – No Messing Around

Humour is our favourite defence mechanism, and it does help in many stressful situations. However, this might not be one of them.

If what you are about to say may cause genuine distress to people, do not insert jokes in your message or point out the irony of the situation: this will only make you look cruel and insensitive, and you will lose the respect of your audience.

Be Respectful Constructive
Show Empathy and Integrity

4. Show Empathy & Integrity

“People almost never change without first feeling understood.” – Douglas Stone

It’s essential to have an emotional connection and make it clear that you understand how people may be feeling about what is going on.

Talk to them on a human level, not just as a boss to staff. Remember what you stand for.

Admit if mistakes were made, talk about constructive action that you may take to make it better, and show appreciation for the work they’ve done.

5. Follow Up

Be available to answer questions, make sure people understand what is going to happen and whether they need to take action.

Keep your team up-to-date if anything essential changes. Change is frightening to most people, and it is the fear of the unknown – shed some light on it. That is what leaders are for.

Follow Up the conversation
Navigating Difficult Conversations in the Workplace

Navigating Difficult Conversations in the Workplace