Taking the stress out of difficult conversations

Stress at work is often caused by misunderstandings and poor communication.

When managers are able to communicate effectively, they can help create a workplace culture that leads to employees being able to discuss any concerns they have in a safe, trusting environment.

However, this is not something that happens by accident.

It will involve having difficult conversations, so that any issues are not simply swept under the carpet and ignored. This will only set a precedent.

Most problems concerning conduct, performance, personal issues or absence are a manager’s responsibility, so should be addressed as soon as possible.

Planning– Before holding a meeting with the employee, a manager should consider how they’ll deliver their message. This will depend on what needs to be said and who to.

They should establish the facts, structure the meeting, and be aware of the relevant policies and procedures if dealing with a disciplinary or grievance case.

Conducting the meeting– The location of the meeting should be somewhere private, and it should be held in person. The layout of the meeting room is also important – sitting face to face can seem confrontational, so sitting next to each other will make the meeting less threatening.

Managers should allow enough time, not rush, and take time afterwards to gather thoughts and reflect on the meeting. Non-verbal communication can impact on communication too.

Handling challenges, interruptions and questions– Prior to the meeting, they should anticipate any questions or challenges and draft pre-emptive answers. Keep to the structure of the meeting, stay calm and in control of the situation.

Concluding– At the end of the meeting, check to see if anything else needs to be discussed. Focus on how the matter may be resolved, and offer any support needed. Agree what will happen next, and when the situation will be reviewed.

Planning this way reduces the chance of conflict, misunderstandings, and, therefore, stress.

To learn more management techniques for tackling stress and creating a more resilient workplace, see Module 5 of BounceBack’s Developing Resilience eLearning course.


Take care,

Team BounceBack

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