Have courageous conversations
A courageous conversation is an effective tool that you can use to resolve conflicts. Beginning a challenging conversation can be the hardest part. Use the openers below to set a non-threatening, unbiased scene.
- I have something I'd like to discuss with you that I think will help us work together more effectively.
- I would like to talk about with you, but first I 'd like to get your point of view.
- I need your help with what just happened. Do you have a few minutes to talk?
- I need your help with something. Can we talk about it (soon)? If they postpone you, follow up with them.
- I think we have different perceptions about . I 'd like to hear your thinking on this.
- I would like to see if we might reach a better understanding about . I really want to hear your thoughts about this and share my perspective as well.
You may start a conversation well, but find yourself reacting to the other party as it becomes contentious. Try to maintain control using the prompts below.
Employee disagrees constructively
- Don't dismiss valid points raised by an employee.
- Don't accept that an employee can 'agree to disagree'. This may be an attempt to avoid taking on feedback.
- Be open to new ideas.
- Record employee point of view.
- Use examples.
Employee agrees too quickly
- Use questions such as 'What is your understanding of the problem?'
- Be alert to non-verbal communication.
- Make sure there is a mutual understanding of overall performance, goals and objectives before the meeting ends.
Employee has unrealistic expectations
- Explain the big picture.
- Don't make promises you can't keep.
- Outline what experience or skills are needed for improvement
- Reinforce individual responsibilities.
Employee constantly shifts the blame
- Probe further and pursue facts.
- Draw back to own performance and responsibilities.
- Use self-appraisal—consider issues and feedback being given.
- Ask for possible solutions or options.
Employee becomes hostile or defensive or shouts
- Talk calmly, slowly and firmly—Don't answer shouting with more shouting.
- If the shouting continues, ask the employee to leave and say that you will schedule a time to continue the discussion when he or she has had time to calm down.
- Focus on why feedback is being given.
- Use factual evidence to support your point.
- Be positive to show you are not attacking.
- Ensure you set a timely follow up meeting.
Employee is passive and unresponsive
- Ask open-ended questions, such as 'What would your approach to the problem be? Why do you think you were so successful in completing that project?'
- Allow silences.
- Rephrase difficult questions.
- Start with the subject that most interests employee or recent successes.
Employee talks at length and doesn't come to the point
- Ask closed questions.
- Focus discussion.
- Use probing.
- Ask the employee to list issues in bullet points.
- Keep to main points.
Employee becomes emotional or teary
- Try to minimise the employee’s embarrassment by empathising and speaking in low, even tones.
- Offer compassion and tissues.
- Ask if he or she would like to talk later, or you leave the room to give them time to compose themselves.
- Encourage him or her to express feelings.
- Continue to refocus on issues.
- Reassure them on their performance.
- Highlight strengths and reiterate positives.
- Use ‘time out’ but be sure to set a timely follow up meeting.
Employee walks out
- Ask the person to stay so that you can finish the discussion.
- Don’t force the issue if they don’t listen.
- Let the employee leave and take up the discussion again when he or she is calmer.
- If the employee continues to refuse to address an issue, consult your HR contact for guidance on handling the situation.