So How Do I Discuss a Difficult Topic at Work?
We’ve all been there. How do we begin to discuss a difficult topic? To make it more difficult, many times personal and business issue overlap. In this post we will cover difficult business conversations. Here are some points to follow to make the whole process go more smoothly:
- Is it a business related issue? Don’t try to turn a personal issue into a business issue. Attempting to control personal choices, where company policy doesn’t cover or regulate employee conduct can lower employee morale and can lead to legal issues. Before moving forward with a discussion, review your employee handbook or talk to your HR department. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
- Are you the appropriate person to have the discussion? Make sure you are the right person to discuss the issue, given your business relationship with the other person. Is there another more direct supervisor or a supervisor with a closer working relationship that might be better suited to discuss the issue with the employee?
- Keep the discussion on a strictly business level. This can be even harder with small businesses where personal and business issues are more likely to overlap. If there are business and personal issues intertwined, clarify how the issues affect the business side of things. For example if you are raising a concern about proper attire, keep the discussion on how the employee’s attire affects customer perception and company policy. Don’t judge that person on a personal level. Personal issues should stay personal, make it clear whether the issue you are discussing is a company business related matter or only a personal recommendation.
- Discuss the topic on terms that will make the other person feel comfortable. It isn’t about your comfort level it’s about their comfort level. Don’t profess to understand exactly what that person is thinking or feeling. Keep the discussion focused, short and to the point. Simple statements will tend to take emotions out of the discussion. With that being said speak in a manner and tone you would want to be spoken to.
- Say something sooner rather than later. By waiting a situation tends to fester. It won’t just go away because you aren’t talking about it.
- Do you have all the facts? Don’t discuss based on assumptions. Only discuss as far as you know is fact. Once you say something you can’t take it back, so be careful what you say.
- Follow up after the initial discussion. Don’t belabor the initial discussion, but if there are additional things that need to be followed up on do it in a timely manner.
A good article on dealing with difficult topics can be found at –http://hbr.org/web/management-tip/tips-on-having-difficult-conversations
Dealing with difficult topics is all about keeping the discussion timely, relevant, and focused, and doing it with respect for the other the person.
Next up – Discussing difficult personal topics