Sooner or later, it’s going to happen in your business. The difficult conversation, the unpleasant encounter, the talk you don’t want to have. Working with other people means we need to get along, but what happens when something upsets the status quo? How do you handle hard subjects without ruffling too many feathers and upsetting your employees?
It comes down to two main areas: creating the right culture and handling the conversation.
Creating the right culture
All workplaces have a culture – it’s the default state and approach everyone expects when they’re working. That culture almost always comes from the bosses and higher-ups at a company. If they’re competitive and ruthless, the culture will be too. If they’re engaged and innovative, employees will respond to that.
So, when it comes to creating a good culture for conversations, there are a few areas where you can set an example, get people thinking in the right way, and build it into the culture of your business.
Create an “open door” policy
Always be available and approachable to your employees. Make it very clear that you care about both their work and about them as people. Let them know they can come to you at any time with questions, ideas, or anything else they need advice with.
Seek feedback from employees
Second to having an open door policy is actively getting feedback from employees. Ask them what they do and don’t like, what can make their jobs easier, and if they have any issues. Encourage constructive feedback, especially responses with good solutions.
Enhance trust and good intentions between people
Very few people go to work to do a bad job. A good company culture should build trust and help employees and teams to think well of each other. You do that by setting an example yourself, trusting your employees, and demonstrating what matters.
Reward excellent behavior
When you see great behavior, make sure you reward it. You can do this through structured means like personnel reviews and one-to-ones, or informally when you notice someone going out of their way to make your business a better place to work.
Handling the conversation
Even with the best culture in the world, you’re still going to run into problems and have difficult conversations. Here are some pointers to keep things as equitable as possible.
- Never make it personal – People always react negatively if they feel attacked. Never make the conversation about aspects of someone’s personality; it should always be about the work, not the way they did it.
- Never be accusatory – It’s not about blame and recrimination, it’s about finding a way forward that works for everyone.
- Explain clearly what the issue is – Don’t have a conversation based on opinions. Use evidence and facts to highlight areas you’d like to change. It’s much harder to argue with data than with opinions.
- Listen – Always listen to and consider their side of the conversation without judgment.
- Encourage them to find a solution – If possible, don’t prescribe a solution yourself. Instead, ask the other person what solution they think would work best, and what they need from you to get it in place.
- Offer support and assistance – Provide mentorship, coaching and advice to help the employee make any changes they need to.
If you can start building an open, honest and trusting company culture, then support that with the right conversation skills – it makes difficult talks much easier. You’ll be able to defuse any potential employee situation and build relationships based on trust and working well together.