Sitting down with personnel and knowing how to have tough conversations is never easy. In fact, it can be a manager’s most dreaded and difficult task. Before you are ever in a position where you need to let someone go or discuss with an employee their inappropriate behaviors or anything of the sort, take some time to yourself and make sure you are prepared. Here a few simple steps to make that painful conversation slightly less awful:
- Know exactly how you will deliver the news: Whatever the feedback may be, make sure you deliver it very clearly and concisely. It’s like ripping off a bandaid, most times, people know some sort of unpleasant news is headed their way, so don’t try and build up to the moment, just as clearly and concisely explain the premise of the conversation.
- Anticipate: Inevitably, there will be pushback. Sometimes this manifests itself in the way of questions, tears, denial or anger. Try to think of the individual you will be talking to and prepare for several different scenarios. Figure out before hand how you will address every alternative.
- Have Closure: Often in a tough conversation, closure is hard to achieve, but to salvage any type of remaining relationship whether strictly business or otherwise, difficult talks need closure. This often will take the form of offering next steps. This could be offering solutions to avoid further confrontation. If you are letting the individual go, this could include compliments based on ways in which the employee had high performance or even recommendations for other opportunities outside your company.
- Be Sincere: Everyone knows when you are just saying something to be nice. After you have broken hard news, nobody wants to hear manufactured compliments or words of encouragement. That’s worse than rubbing salt in a wound. Make sure anything that is said is sincere. Thumper from Bambi was right. If you truly have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
- Be Quick: As soon as bad news is delivered, chances are the person will tune out. Make sure that anything important that is said after the news is delivered is very direct and clear. Don’t be wordy, don’t try to turn it into a full-fledged meeting. Just put the cards on the table, allow for questions and closure then be done.
- Tell The Truth: One of the biggest mistakes you can make is fabricate a lie or story to help ease the tense situation. Don’t make an excuse in an effort to give a ray of hope or a logical explanation. Almost always, these lies are detected and make the situation far worse, not to mention the fact they can result in legal trouble.
- Mum’s the Word: These tough conversations should be discussed with no one. They should be strictly “need-to-know.” Talking about these circumstances with other individuals is not only damaging to the recipient of the the tough conversation but also can be hurtful to your own reputation.
Learning the art of having tough conversations is crucial. Even though sticky discussions are usually under ten minutes, it is imperative you spend double that amount of time preparing exactly what you will say. Though you never get used to tough conversations, hopefully these seven steps will make delivering the news a more smooth, win-win process.