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How to Turn "Difficult Conversations" Into a Win

November 27th, 2017
Sooner or later every manager is going to have "one of those" conversations with a worker. It's human nature to want to put those conversations off as long as possible, which is, as you might expect, the worst thing you can do. It only makes things worse when you finally must have that sit down.

Experts tell us that having regular one-on-one check-ins with each member of your team allows you to address performance issues before they become serious. Those routine meetings also put the employee on notice to avoid surprising them if disciplinary action is required later on.

Even in those check-ins, there will be times when the conversation will be difficult. One technique to ease the stress and create an open, constructive  atmosphere is to use a "Declaration/Invitation Format." It requires practice and preparation, but it is a method that can be mastered by any manager.

In the "Declaration" part, you explain what it is you want to discuss in clear and concrete language. No accusations; no blame or judgment; just simply state what the topic is, providing just enough context so the employee knows you are talking about.

Then, in the "Invitation" step, you invite the person to engage with you regarding the topic. You might choose to say something like, "Do you see where I'm coming from?" or "How do you think we should deal with that?" The idea here is pose a more or less neutral question thus "inviting" them to respond.

You can find specific examples of both declarations and invitations in this article.

It sounds simple enough, and it can be if you prepare in advance. This  format will make the process much less painful than you imagined. At the end of an effective meeting both you and the employee will have a better understanding of the situation and how to resolve it.

Perhaps needless to say, but there will be times when confronting an employee directly is necessary -- theft, harassment and other types of offenses that must be dealt with swiftly. However, for performance issues and the like, this technique can reduce or even eliminate defensiveness and help both you and the employee remain as effective colleagues.

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