There’s no avoiding that you’ll need to have a difficult conversation with a colleague from time to time. Here are some tips to help you in preparing and conducting a difficult conversation at work:
Take action first by collecting evidence of the pattern (e.g. emails, conversations, etc.) so you can clearly articulate yourself. Set a time with the person to discuss the issue in advance so they have time to prepare as well. No ambushes.
Prepare for emotions
On the day of the conversation, get yourself ready emotionally. Understand the outcome you want but be prepared to be wrong. Get yourself ready for the other person to be emotional, too. They may get defensive, upset or angry. It’s important you respond calmly. Remember: if you are emotional you can STOP (Stop, Take a breath, Observe, Proceed).
Have the conversation
Ensure the conversation is positive and engage in feedback:
Be ready to listen, ask questions, and accept that you may not fully understand the issue
Hold the person accountable without shaming or blaming them
Genuinely thank them for their efforts rather than criticise them for their failings
The way to not let difficult conversation turn into confrontations is to shift your mindset, understand the role of emotions, value planning and preparing, give feedback and reflect. Hopefully you feel prepared for your next difficult conversation with these tips.