Monday, October 7, 2013

Having Difficult Conversations with Employees

Serious conversations within the workplace can be difficult for even the most seasoned managers. Managers are often at a crossroads when trying to determine whether to avoid or initiate conversations of destructive employee behavior. Jacquelyn Polito discusses four related approaches that may help managers break through those difficult barriers while still addressing the essential issues (2013). As with all highly emotional discussions, there are a number of considerations to think about before moving forward.

Stone’s Five Steps to Productive Conversation (Stone, Patton, & Heen, 2010):
            1. Understand the three points of view that are going to be seen within the conversation.
                        -Get the facts and be open to new facts.
                        -Understand your emotions with the issues.
                        -Understand what is at stake.
            2.  Ensure that the conversation is worth having and if it is the best approach.
            3.  Explain the story from a third party’s point of view to reduce conflict.
            4. Explore both your and their sides of the story.
            5. Problem solve to rectify the situation. 

Leebov’s Caring Feedback Model (Leebov 2010): To provide caring feedback without stepping down.
            1. State your purpose in positive terms.
            2. State the situation and behavior in clear terms.
            3.  State the consequences on others when such behavior continues.
            4. Use empathy.
            5.  Make it a dialogue, allow for responses, and ask questions.
            6.  State your request and expectations in clear terms. 

Ury’s Break Through Strategies (Ury 1993): A model to break through the barriers to resolution that include emotions, power, position, dissatisfaction and reaction.
            1. Imagine you are looking down on your conversation and avoid reaction or giving in.
            2.  They may show anger, hostility, resentment, or aggressiveness. Avoid engaging in argument in the way they expect and continue to work on problem solving.
            3. Don’t reject their position only reframe it.
            4. If the employee doesn’t want to see the mutual benefits don’t push simply explain how it benefits all parties.
            5. Educate them on the futile nature of not working with others and achieving mutual goals. 

Crawford’s Workplace Issue Discussion (Crawford 2008): The manager should assume the leadership role, be calm, and directly address the behavior while being concise.
            1. Describe the purpose of the meeting.
            2. Describe the behavior.
            3. Listen to the reaction.
            4. Agree on the resolution and set expectations.
            5. Hear employees side of story.
            6. Work on problem-solving and collaboration.
            7. Document discussion.
            8. Reinforce.

Crawford D. (2008). We need to talk: ten scenarios to practice handling needed conversations. Society for Human Resource Management. SHRM. Retrieved October 7th, 2013 at

Leebov W. (2010). Elevating performance: how to raise the bar. Wendy Leebov, Inc. Retrieved  October 7th, 2013 at

Polito, J. (2013). Effective communication during difficult conversations. Neurodiagnostic Journal, 53 (2).

Stone, D., Patton, B., and Heen, P. (2010). Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most. New York: Penguin Books.

Ury W. (1993). Getting Past No: Negotiating Your Way from Confrontation to Cooperation. New York: Bantam Books.

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