When it comes to mastering the art of conflict and difficult conversations at work, we could all use a little assistance. We’re only human, after all. Without the right tools on the shelf, a challenging conversation can easily turn into a muddled mess.
Difficult conversations are called so for a reason. They’re difficult. But as anyone will know, they’re both crucial to our own professional development and the progression of the company.
Challenging conversations come in all shapes and sizes. Asking your boss for a pay rise? Difficult. Trying to tell a coworker they’re impeding on your work performance? Challenging.
But there are ways of making them less painful. Read on for our top tips on how to master difficult conversations in the workplace.
Have a game plan
Having a difficult conversation isn’t something you want to do on the spur of the moment. I repeat; this is not a drill. Plan out your key touchpoints ahead of time. Going into it with a solid game plan will mean nothing is missed and you’re prepared for any curveballs they might throw your way. Think about what it is you hope to achieve out of the conversation, and the steps you need to put in place to get there.
State your purpose
Start by stating the purpose of your conversation, and don’t make it negative. Think big picture stuff here. What are you hoping to achieve for yourself? For the organisation? Try to bring it all back to your company’s values, and emphasise that you’re there to live out those values.
What to say
Hi Andrew, I’ve called this meeting to highlight the ways in which I’ve contributed to the company’s overall growth in the past year, and to demonstrate why I believe I’m entitled to a pay rise which reflects my performance.
What not to say
Hi Andrew, I haven’t had a pay rise in a while, and I think it’s about time I got one.
Now is not the time for a compliment sandwich. Difficult conversations can become even more challenging when drawn out. Very often, the other person knows what’s coming, and they’re probably quite anxious for you to get right to it. While it may not feel like it, beating around the bush is actually just unfair. Rip the bandaid off and get to the point quickly.
State the facts about what it is that’s bothering you with real examples. Receiving a critique from someone is hard, so the more accuracy you can provide them with about your situation will make it easier to receive. Be honest, without belittling or demeaning. Provide as many concrete examples as you can so that they know you’re not pulling it out of thin air.
Let them ask questions
There are two benefits to this. Questions allow you to clarify your points to the listener further, and it helps them process what’s happened in their own way. If you’re not sure they fully grasped the point of the conversation, ask them a few clarifying questions to ensure you got your point across.
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