I hate conflict, how do I say this...?

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Here's how to have The Hard Conversations

Unprofessional conduct or Poor Performance:

Unprofessional behaviour, a poor attitude, not coming up with the goods are all issues which most managers have to deal with at some time or other. You can minimize the need to deal with these situations by having clear explicit expectations which are shared from the outset with your team and modelling the behaviour you want etc. Let's assume that you have those things in place and one or more of you staff are disappointing you because of their attitude, behaviour or performance. How should you tackle it?

In the first instance offering feedback as part of your normal cycle may be enough. Don’t forget to set up a review date.

If that process doesn’t work you may need to have a “Hard Conversation” (be very clear this is not a competency hearing).

What is a “Hard Conversation for?

It is about ensuring staff recognize what they are doing wrong, the impact it is having on organization, the team, you as an individual and what needs to change.

How to do it:

  • Be very clear about what it is you want to change. 
  • You need to give the other person precise information if they are to be able to improve and know when they are being successful.
  • Keep information/evidence where ever possible to support what you are saying
  • Set up a meeting which is mutually convenient
  • Locate the meeting somewhere private without interruption
  • Be calm, professional and supportive
  • Remember you are criticizing the behaviour or attitude NOT THE PERSON!
  • Ask that the person hears you out before responding
  • Assure them that they will be given a chance to put their point of view
  • However excited they may become remain calm and return to the central point
  • Don’t store up a long list of things – deal with one or two at most at any one time
  • Be explicit about the behaviour and why it is unacceptable ( impact on others/ corporate image etc.
  • Identify the way forward so they know exactly what to expect

Hard Conversation Structure

You might find this useful –remember that this is only one way. The principles need to be adhered to. You will need to put this into context with the member of staff (incidentally it works well with wayward children and teenagers too – just tweak the wording)

"I value you as a member of staff and am keen that you have the best opportunity to develop and make the greatest contribution to this (team/project/department etc)."

"I believe you have the potential for things to be so much / even better."

"I have asked you to join me today as I want to discuss your (behaviour/attitude/performance etc.)"

"I would like to set up the structure for this conversation before we start so we are both clear. OK"

"I’d like you to hear me out before you say anything. I promise you will get your chance to put across your point of view."

You know from your general feedback that I have concerns about ---------------- (your timekeeping, the number of errors in your calculations, the way you talk to customers, poor planning etc.etc.

e.g.1) Are you aware that you have been late by at least 15 minutes 14 times in the last six weeks

e.g. 2) Information has gone out to customers with mistakes 4 times in the past 3 months, and this is just the ones I am aware of.

When you do / fail to -------------------------- it impacts on -------------

e.g. 1) The rest of the staff as they have to pick up on your phone calls/means you are rushing to catch up which leads to careless mistakes /has implications of fairness – if every member of staff was late think of the corporate cost to the company etc. It is actually a form of stealing as you are paid for that time.

e.g. 2) Gives a very unprofessional impression which impacts on our credibility with the customer, if they lose confidence, we lose the contract and then need fewer people. Our reputation is as good as our last piece of work./ Has huge cost implications as we have had to redo / reprint etc.

What I need you to do is ----------------

What do you think?

It is hard for them to wriggle or deny when you have an evidence base.

What I need from you is ---------------

e.g.1 For you to be in five minutes before your contracted start time so you are ready to begin the day

e.g.2 For you to check your own work – remember the quality of your output is a measure of your professionalism and reflects on the reputation of our department/organization

Over the next 3 months, lets see how things go. I would like to be able to congratulate you on improved attitude/behaviour etc.

If people have valid reasons to explain make sure you give them the opportunity. eg. If they have child care issues, a family emergency etc. If it is a short term thing you may be able to put a temporary measure in, offer flexi-time etc. It may be a question of pointing them back to the criteria for appointment, 

Follow this simple structure and there will be no need for conflict and arguments - having 'hard' conversations will become something you think of as 'easy' and 'positive'.

Maybe you need more help from *me* to help you deal with the hard conversations?

If you need any further assistance with speaking up about what you need your team members to do or how to behave or help with becoming an Enlightened Leader, then there are lots of free resources and content, plus a fully CPD Accredited training programme that may just be perfect for you. Just head over to my website HERE.

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