Holding "the" Conversation


There comes a time in every manager’s or HR professional’s career when he or she must deliver a difficult message to an employee. The message might be about hygiene, performance, or termination.

Regardless of the situation, it is a necessary discussion, and how you convey the message can either make or break the conversation. This dread of the impending conversation can create avoidance, so when we do get around to it, we often provide a quick delivery and close the door on the communication, avoiding any further conversation. This is where we fail.

Holding the difficult conversation is what the other person deserves. You can make this an opportunity to demonstrate respect by providing a neutral dialogue between two professionals. This creates a much smoother resolution when the conversation provides a “sacred” space for both parties to hear, listen, and resolve.

In preparing for the discussion, consider how you can be sensitive and respectful to the employee so that the message you are conveying will create the best result. Consider such factors such as communication style, gender, culture, age, and language. Taking the time to put thought into the messaging helps create and strengthen your relationship with the employee.

Not Right or Wrong
This one tip to take into any difficult discussion can help you gain the greatest result. Not only can this tip change your relationships at work, it can evolve your life relationships as well. This is the secret to every discussion, rant, dialogue, or feedback that will provide you a positive outcome rather than one that devolves into anger or hurt feelings.

Know that what you are doing is holding the conversation. You single-handedly are setting up the space for an interaction that will provide the opportunity to reap results otherwise out of reach. It creates a space for immediate agreement and results. Feeling empowered, you forge all of this from a humble approach of not making anyone right or wrong. This includes you: you do not get to be right or wrong, nor does the other person. Be certain you don’t just understand this, but that you know this. You are not right or wrong and neither is the other person. When you approach your discussion from this perspective, not right or wrong — you hold a conversation with a space for respect, interaction, trust, and agreement. Extending facts of observation, concerns, and expectation without a layer of what is right or wrong enables people on both sides to explore commitments to a vision that removes the threat or feeling of attack.

Try it on. Hold a conversation and watch your results. Remember, you are not right or wrong, but neutral and focused on the outcome.