Managing A Difficult Conversation

Managing a difficult conversation can be one of the most daunting jobs for a manager, particularly one that lacks experience and confidence. Here are 5 steps to prepare you for managing  a difficult conversation

  • Identify the goal that you want

Write down the goal you want to discuss.
Decide what topic you need to address in order to get to your goal
Plan the agenda for your meeting.

  • Have a reality check with your employee

    What is the current situation, what’s happening now.
    What’s the effect of what’s happening now.
    Stick to the facts, have them very clearly laid out in front of you.
    Don’t get emotional.
    Don’t get diverted. Someone who doesn’t want to talk about the topic you want to talk about may well try to drag you down a different route.


  • What are the various options available?

    Get the employee to generate options.
    Keep your mouth shut and let them offer solutions, resist taking over evaluate the options.
    What are the pros and cons of the different options given the outcome you want to achieve?
    Who or what might stop the employee or get in their way?
    What option will you choose to act on?
    what will the employee do? when will they do it?

  • Action

    Specify the next steps for the employee and define timing . Write this down.


  • Set a review date and specify what you want to review at that meeting


How do you improve your self confidence if you are preparing for managing a difficult conversation?

  • Read through the 5 steps above and write out your strategy.
  • Learn – read, talk, listen, ask, try, reflect.
  • Spend time deciding what really matters and get it crystal clear in your head. (don’t throw too much at once at the employee).
  • Remember a time when you did something that was a great win or success. You’ve experienced and give yourself credit for your part in it.
  • If you’re talking yourself out of a difficult conversation, just say “What the heck”, and do it anyway
  • Look out for your patterns of thought. Where you start second-guessing or over-thinking, criticising yourself or using negative language. If your best friend was going through exactly the same process, what would you say to them?
  • Learn to catch yourself out every time you tell yourself that you can’t do. Or won’t be able to be or not good enough at managing a difficult conversation.
  • Next time you are managing a difficult conversation, listen to what you tell yourself. Ask yourself, “What would make this easier?”
  • Be Prepared!

Metis HR is a professional HR Consultancy based in the North West of England supporting clients across the country. We specialise in providing outsourced HR services to small and medium-sized businesses. Call us now on 01706 565332 to discuss how we may help you.

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