Statistics from CEDR reveal a third of managers would rather parachute jump for the first time (35%) than address a problem with their team at work.
Why do we find the prospect so terrifying and what can we do to tackle it?
For most of us it is the fear of the unknown.
- How will they react?
- What if they say something I can’t handle?
- What if it impacts on our relationship?
Picture credit ‘Kim Stovring' under licence from Creative Commons
These are all legitimate concerns but we also need to ask ourselves what would happen if we don’t address the issue. It certainly won’t fade away with the Halloween ghosts and ghouls. In fact the opposite nearly always happens; the issue festers and grows until it becomes something far more tricky to deal with.
So take a look at our guidelines for tackling “nightmare” conversations and tackle your fears head on!
Guidelines for Tackling Nightmare Conversations!
The first time you tackle a particular issue with someone, the tone should be informal, relaxed and conversational. Often people don’t realise the impact they are having on others and don’t intend to come across in a “difficult” or negative way.
So this first discussion is about raising the other person’s awareness and nipping the situation in the bud. Preparation is key.
- Be clear about what you are looking for the outcome to be. As Stephen Covey says “start with the end in mind”. Try imagining it is the end of the conversation; what exactly will you have covered for you to feel it was successful?
- Write down what you want to say; this will help with your confidence levels and ensure you don’t “beat around the bush”... which often only adds to people’s anxiety levels.
- Be upfront with someone about the fact you want to have a chat and why... ensure you indicate to them that it is about a discussion, not about apportioning blame. For example “I’d like to have a chat with you about the meeting this morning and the comments that were made by you and X” or “I’d like to talk to you about the incident on Monday afternoon”.
- Think about the open questions you will ask to get the other person’s point of view and create a true discussion eg “Can you tell me what happened?” “What thoughts do you have on this?”
- Depersonalise the feedback – a good way to do this is refer to the standards you and the company expect (which will work best if the standards have been made clear in the first place!) eg “If we go back to your job description/company guidelines/company values/behaviours, one of the things we look for in terms of communication is for people to try and be aware of the impact their words might have on others...”
- Have clear and specific examples to illustrate the points you will be raising.
- Ensure your mindset is about wanting to understand, not to apportion blame. If you genuinely want to understand the other persons position or perception of a situation, you will create a more co-operative discussion and people are less likely to put defences up and derail the conversation.
- Remember the 80/20 rule – the other person should be doing 80% of the talking and you only 20%. When we are unsure, it is easy to start babbling; we need to let the other person talk if we are to get to the root of the issue.
- Ask the team member what support might help. It is better to get them to identify what they think would help them rather than you imposing what you think they need.
- Agree specific actions and standards – not “I need to be better at planning” but “to help me get better at planning we have agreed the following 3 actions...”
- Before you finish the meeting, agree a specific time to meet and review how things are going.
- Put a summary of the conversation and agreed action in writing and ensure you both have a copy.
- Monitor how they do... catch them doing something right and give them feedback to reinforce the desired behaviour.
- Continue to review and give feedback – it is important to maintain performance once the changes have been made and on average it takes us 21 days to form a new habit!
See how to handle our top five “ghastly” conversations here.