There’s a great tendency to avoid confrontation, especially within the workplace. Seldom have I come across a manager who’s never been faced with having to have a difficult conversation, if you haven’t I need your recipe for success!
Those of us that have had or are facing having a difficult conversation did/have you considered the longer term impact of doing nothing on the team or did/do your concerns lay firmly with just having to have that dreaded difficult conversation?
If having difficult conversations is an area you struggle with, you have a dilemma! What you cannot talk about, you cannot resolve. Having led teams and coached managers for a number of years I have seen myself the problems that can, and do occur through avoidance! When you avoid tough conversation, problems are repeated and issues can very easily escalate. Worse still though, your behaviour sends a message to those around you that unacceptable behaviour or poor performance is tolerated! Turning a blind eye to issues that you’re afraid to tackle essentially leads to your poor performing staff receiving the same treatment as your high performers resulting in team dissatisfaction and people not knowing where they stand.
We all set off with good intentions in having those difficult conversations, I’ve been there! Wide awake on a night planning what you’re going to say, writing yourself a list of things to cover then rehearsing in the shower?? Yet when it comes to the crunch, as prepared as you may be, you take the easy option and give in under pressure, failing to tackle the issue!
So what are some of the symptoms of taking the easy option out? Symptoms I've seen include softening your message and talking in general terms rather than providing specific examples, or worst case changing the subject all together! Expecting your staff to read in between the lines instead of actually telling them where they’re falling short is not an option. It’s a cop out and creates nothing but confusion and a breakdown in communication through your mixed messages.
If you struggle having difficult conversations, think about what could happen if you don’t deal with the situation? What implication could this have for the rest of the team? You need to take accountability for your impact and suspend justifying your behaviour by defending your positive intentions. I work with so many managers who believe that coaching is unnecessary and they’re quite capable of going it alone. That is until they actually experience the benefits of being coached then their view is very different. Try sharing your problem with a trusted adviser and discuss ways of addressing the situation. This can really help you figure out the best way in moving forward.
So you’re ready to have that conversation! Be courageous, your goal should not to be the perfect manager in dealing with the issue, it’s to provide direct feedback in the right way that is understood! Your fears in having the conversation are shared fears and are perfectly normal so face your blind spot head on and make the conversation happen. You will earn far more respect dealing with the situation rather than avoiding it.
For tips on dealing with conflict and giving feedback, visit our Resource Bank ‘How To’ fact sheets.