Tackling Tough Workplace Conversations

Episode 69

Tackling tough workplace conversations is probably the last thing any of us want to do on any given day. But they need to happen. We share some insights and tips to help you get the conversation started and make sure that it has the positive impact you are looking for.

Host(s): Jonathan Saar from Market Me Social and Mark Howell from Howl Creative Concepts

Show Highlights

Criticism, critique, and admonishment are just a few things that can make a conversation at work difficult. This article will focus on three main points:

  • The pitfalls of avoiding difficult conversations
  • How a personal approach can help
  • How building this skill will make you a better leader

Key Questions/Topics Covered

What happens when tough issues are not talked out?

We recently held a pole on LinkedIn and asked our community members how they handle workplace conversations? Here are the results from the three answers they could choose from:

  1. Blunt and to the point – 58%
  2. Avoid them at all costs – 0%
  3. Focus on the positives – 42%

While nobody chose #2, we all know that it can and does happen. Not having these conversations can lead to additional workplace anxiety and stress, affecting team morale. As we all know, this is a significant contributing factor as to why our industry experiences such a high employee turnover rate.

Acknowledging that these conversations have to happen is step one. Now we need to consider the best way to have these conversations. Our community seemed pretty split on their opinion. There is value in both being direct and positive. While our words are important, so is our foundation or relationship with our team members.

Build a solid foundation for open communication

How do your team members know you? This is crucial to being able to have open lines of communication. If people feel you genuinely care, conversations, even the tough ones, will be easier.

You need to take the time to get to know your team and understand how they communicate or their love language. Some people respect or prefer direct or to-the-point feedback. But others may find this off-putting and could potentially damage your relationship. Fine-tuning your emotional intelligence to determine who is who will go a long way to showing your level of personal investment.

Another great tip to building a solid foundation with your team members is to exercise what Mark likes to call “shoe shifting.” In other words, take time to step into others’ shoes, so to speak, to see things from their perspective. This will give you greater insight into what they are experiencing and how that affects their work.

Once you build a solid foundation, you will be better equipped to give feedback or critique when necessary. Be sure to create value by finding a balance between highlighting their strengths and helping plan a way to tackle any weaknesses. Studies have shown that it is not always about the money; people want to be heard and feel valued. By taking the time to thank team members or acknowledge their strengths, you show that you are interested in them, not just what they struggle with.

Tough workplace conversations can make you a better leader

We have all heard that there is a difference between a leader and a manager. In addition to that thought process, we have seen an evolution from leader to servant leader. A servant leader is just as the title suggests; they are looking for ways to serve or help their team members and lead by example.

Strong leaders embrace challenges and are constantly seeking ways to improve. Be it through continued education, focusing on growing their emotional intelligence, or taking the time for honest self-reflection. All these steps and learning experiences can aid in helping you become the leader you should want to be. At the end of the day, you chose this path, so it’s your job to show up!

Tough workplace conversations have to happen but do not need to result in losing a potentially good employee. Build your team through honest and open communication but always with a dash of humanity.

Class Dismissed!

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