Handling Challenging Conversations at Work

An article by Kate Jennings

Handling challenging conversations and people is a fact of working life! Tackling issues early and effectively with staff and colleagues helps us meet deadlines and satisfy internal and external stakeholders.  Good working relationships involve working with staff and colleagues to achieve team and business goals.

Many of us would prefer to avoid the potential confrontation that can arise when we talk with people about issues of performance, attitude, behaviour, capability, conduct etc.   The ‘head in the sand’ approach is very popular!  We hope the problem will go away. In reality, it tends to get worse and then takes longer to resolve. The business suffers.  Team morale is often affected too as others in the team get frustrated because one person is ‘allowed to get away with it’ while they are busy working hard.

Setting clear expectations of the standards required for staff performance and behaviour is essential. There are effective ways of doing this so that people are held accountable.  This provides specific, measurable goals and timescales for tasks to be achieved. It avoids ambiguity and makes the process more transparent.  It can also help identify potential reasons for underperformance, what training / support etc may be needed and sets timescales for improvement. This helps everyone in the long run and moves the process forward.  Dealing with negative attitudes and poor behaviour are also issues many managers are unsure how to handle. We can show you how to do this too.

Raising thorny issues with colleagues is also important. Doing so constructively improves both our relationships and effectiveness, as well as helping us hit business goals.

We may not find this easy, but by learning the tools to have challenging conversations we develop confidence to do so effectively. Our ‘Handling Challenging Conversations & People’ course covers the following:

  • What do we have challenging conversations about – with staff and colleagues?
  • What is performance management?
  • Setting expectations with colleagues and staff
  • SMART tasks / objectives to ensure accountability
  • A range of feedback models
  • Dealing effectively with poor attitude and behaviour
  • How to manage poor performance
  • A range of coaching skills including dealing with push-back
  • Preparing for a challenging conversation
  • Practical skills practice on your own challenging conversation
  • Action planning

Cambridge Executive Development’s Kate Jennings has over 15 years’ experience as a management trainer and coach working with nationally recognised brands to improve performance, confidence and effectiveness.