How to Have Difficult Workplace Conversations
Difficult conversations are inevitable. Any time two or more human beings interact with one another there will arise times of tension where uncomfortable things need to be discussed. In the workplace, having these conversations can feel particularly awkward. However, it will become necessary at times to approach your bosses or co-workers about conflicts, changes, or things that are impairing your ability to do your job comfortably. Keep these things in mind to make difficult workplace conversations go as smoothly as possible.
Choose Your Moment
If you are aware that your boss is under a lot of pressure, it’s probably not a good idea to ask for a raise or hand in your notice. Sometimes circumstances are such that you cannot be as sensitive to the needs of your boss and department as much as you would like, but be as considerate as you can and choose your moment wisely. It is often best to schedule time with your manager or co-worker to have these conversations so that a specific time has been set aside for you both to focus on the matter at hand and you won’t be interrupted before the issue is settled.
Be Prepared for Outcomes
While overthinking your impending conversation can lead to an unhealthy amount of anxiety, trying to be mindfully prepared for possible outcomes is a good idea. For instance, if you intend to turn in your notice, what will you do if you are offered more money to stay? Or a more flexible schedule? What if your boss loses his cool at your resignation and fires you on the spot? Don’t overthink it, but be aware of your reasons going in to the conversation so that you have a good bedrock for answering questions you may not have been anticipating.
Show a United Front
If you are not the only member of your team having an issue, consider approaching your boss together as a united front. This should not be done aggressively, as if you are ganging up on your boss, but your managers being aware of issues in the department is important and if it's coming from more than one source, they may be more likely to do something about it. Additionally, you will have the added confidence of knowing someone is in your corner and has your back.
If you are confronting a co-worker about a particular issue or behavior, approach it as respectfully as possible. Do not go in for the kill, but politely and respectfully state your case. People still may respond badly and you may have to get a manager involved, but you can do so knowing you did all you could to resolve the matter peaceably.
Face Tension Head-On
Somewhere along the line many of us have come to believe that talking about things that bother us is immoral at worst and impolite at best. This usually manifests in increasingly more obvious passive-aggressive behavior until someone’s internal gasket blows. It is much better, though usually far more uncomfortable, to face the issue head-on before it has time to grow into a festering malignancy.