How to Handle Challenging Conversations in the Workplace?

How to Handle Challenging Conversations in the Workplace? | The Enterprise World

Uncomfortable interactions at work? With so many different personalities at play, these are almost always guaranteed to happen. 

For Human Resources professionals in particular, learning how to navigate awkward conversations in the workplace is critical. Of course, if you work in HR, the interactions you’ll be having with company employees will not always be rosy! As such, there are certain skills you’ll need to develop to be able to confront certain challenging scenarios head-on. 

To learn how to manage difficult but necessary employee relations as a Human Resources professional, consider enrolling in one of the many available HR courses online. Alternatively, just keep reading as we talk you through the concept further. 

Difficult conversations in the workplace: The Reality of Tackling Tricky Employee Relations as an HR Professional 

As an HR professional, at times, you will be required to have uncomfortable conversations in the workplace.

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To be frank, the HR department of a company is not just responsible for recruiting new staff members to the team. They will also be tasked with the unpleasant duty of letting underperforming staff go. This can prove especially difficult if the employee in question has been with the company for quite some time. In these circumstances, it is important for the HR team member to be sensitive and to consider the impact the redundancy will have on the individual’s life moving forward. 

In addition to their hiring and, conversely, firing responsibilities, HR professionals are also often tasked with overseeing employee performance management programs. Frequently referred to as performance improvement plans (or PIPs for short), these programs are intended to help struggling staff improve their results at work. This may sound well-intended, however, on the flip side – that is to say, if the staff member in question is still not performing despite the plan – measures need to be taken to bring them up to speed. 

Controversially, PIPs are not always seen as a good thing. In some instances, they could just be seen as being put into place as a matter of form. That is to say, the manager or implementor of a PIP could be accused of going through the motions of ‘performance improvement’ when the true intention is simply to phase out or get rid of a certain employee. For this reason, it is paramount for the HR professional overseeing the process to tread carefully, and to avoid any semblance of bullying or discrimination.

Navigating Confrontation: Critical Communication Skills to Diffuse Sticky Workplace Scenarios

Managing difficult conversations in the workplace as an HR staff member is a sensitive business. There is a fine line between being compassionate with the individual and being firm in the face of the seriousness of the task at hand. Here’s how to balance each aspect:

Communicating with Sensitivity, Empathy & Compassion

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Making someone redundant. Not an easy task, surely. Nevertheless, this is a necessary and at times central part of your role as an HR professional. 

In these scenarios, it is essential to treat the employee in question with dignity and respect. Have compassion for their situation, and do your utmost to deliver the message sensitively. Last but not least – be prepared for tears! In many cases, this will be an emotionally charged conversation for the employee to experience. Your job is to ensure that they do not come away from the interaction with exacerbated feelings of inadequacy or incompetency.

Projecting Assertiveness, Firmness & Authoritative Communication 

On the converse side of the coin, you also need to remember that you have a job to do! And that duty, as unpleasant as it may sound, is to deliver bad news. 

This does not mean that you need to be the ‘bad guy’. You’re simply the messenger, and you’ve been tasked with delivering a message. Cultivating a slight sense of detachment will prove invaluable in protecting yourself from the unpleasantness of the situation. In addition to this, it is important to realise that the message will not be met with an ecstatic reaction. Indeed, the employee in question will likely be very upset and may want to take it out on someone.

In these cases, stay firm, authoritative, and polite, and do not take it personally. After all, you are just doing your job!

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