How to have difficult conversations during difficult times

Six steps for leaders:

1. Name the issue with your employee

2. Be specific with an example

3. Explain the impact

4. Identify your contribution to the problem

5. Indicate your wish to solve the issue

6. Invite them to respond

  • Ruinous empathy is when you care personally but fail to challenge directly. This results in the message being lost – ignorance and no change.
  • If you challenge directly but don’t show you care about them personally, this is called obnoxious aggression, and results in defensiveness or little change.
  • Manipulative insincerity is what happens when you neither care personally nor challenge directly – and where none of us want to be!

The goal is radical candour – this is based on the idea great conversations happen when we care personally and challenge directly.

It simply means saying what you think while also caring about the person you’re speaking to.

Source: Radical Candor.

What you can do

Whether at work or at home many of us have recently had difficult conversations, on subjects such as:

  • Letting staff go or reducing their hours
  • Accessing JobKeeper
  • Managing staff performance
  • Finding balance with work, home and family

It is important to engage team members as early as possible to resolve any potential, or actual, issues before they become major problems.

It is also important to share the value of honest feedback and highlight unaware behaviours or attitudes which may impact performance. As well as an essential part of leading a high-performing team, it enables members to have greater trust and rely on each other.

Things to remember

  • Empathy – come from a place of care and concern
  • Be objective – discuss the behaviour not the person, provide evidence
  • Be confident – practice, say it out loud
  • Listen – identify their need, seek to understand more
  • Be clear about your expectations and what you want or need
  • Be transparent and honest
  • Invite them to be part of the solution

Where to go for help and information:

  • Assure Programs offer workshops which focus on workplace challenges such as managing difficult conversations
  • Fair Work have developed a free online course and guide regarding difficult conversations in the workplace
  • Federal funding and assistance is also available to keep employees impacted by a health condition at work via Work Assist

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