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Four Steps for Tackling Any Tough Workplace Conversations

An uphill climb to tackle touch workplace conversations. Cartoon author unknown

Addressing head on tough workplace conversations

One of the hardest challenges an individual faces is deciding how to tackle tough workplace conversations. These conversations can include simple things like a colleague’s disruptively loud office conversations to the more difficult topics of constructive feedback, discriminatory behaviour, or disliking one’s role.

As daunting as the conversation might seem, there are several strategies and tactics that ensure these conversations are productive.

Adopting the right mindset before the conversation

Our state of mind (thoughts and feelings) directly affects our behaviour and communication style. Think of a time you’ve been irritated with something your partner did, it is tough to hide the irritation if the issue is dealt with in the moment! Explaining the sage counsel, we receive at some point in our lives from grandparents or parents: “Don’t deal with something in anger, take the time to cool off first.”

So, the natural question becomes, what mindset is helpful in these moments when I might feel less than generous?

There are four mindset strategies to take on before the conversation, they are:

  1. Remaining laser focused on the situation (not the person)
  2. Thinking about your words, tone and approach before and during the conversation (be direct, not confrontational)
  3. Focusing on common ground (actively seek it)
  4. Adopting solutions with both parties buying in

In addition to mindset, there are four tactical steps that foster a productive conversation and outcome. 

The tactical steps are:

  1. Assume the other person always has good intentions 
  2. Be empathetic and kind throughout
  3. Seek to understand and afterwards being understood
  4. Be a supportive leader or teammate (depending on the relationship)

Illustrating the techniques in a workplace example

Picture this scenario: you’re in a team and role that you are no longer enjoying – the honeymoon period has worn off. The hours are long, management encourages a highly competitive culture so peers are trying to one-up each other, collaboration is low. Additionally, the work is repetitive and career prospects are opaque, at best. However, you like the organization so aren’t ready to throw in the towel just yet.

How could these techniques apply in this case?

Strategy and tactics for managing difficult conversations in the workplace. Copyright 2022 DW Group SARL, no copying or reproducing without permission.

Final Thoughts

Through these mindset and tactical techniques, we more confidently manage difficult workplace challenges.  Of course, this doesn’t mean tough workplace conversations suddenly become easy – they do not. However, we are ready for more productive and constructive conversations while inching towards better outcomes!

Your turn

Sign in to the Community Member Area or comment below to share your tips and suggestions for handling tough workplace situations. Remember the January draw from a personalized copy of The Power of Potential is on – comment for your chance to be entered into the draw. Good luck!  

Give it a try!

Cartoon credit: author unknown

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