When you arrive to work, your employees are all feeling tense. Something isn't right, but no one has been willing to talk about it. Are you willing to open up the conversation, or will you continue to let it slide regardless of the consequences?
Having difficult conversations at work is unavoidable, but that doesn't stop some employers from doing their best to avoid it anyway. We're here to talk about how this avoidance could lead to workplace trouble (and how you can start opening up those conversations again). Read on to learn more.
1. Employee feedback won't be useful
When you are too afraid to have difficult conversations at work, you're going to be giving a lot of ineffective feedback during employee performance reviews. How can you help your employees understand what they're doing wrong before it's too late if you're too afraid of negativity?
Remember that feedback isn't a punishment, and as long as you frame your feedback as constructive criticism, your employees will appreciate it. They'd rather make adjustments and continue helping the company, than hold you back.
2. You may lose great employees
There are several things that could lead you to losing fantastic employees as a result of trying to avoid dealing with difficult conversations at work.
First, let's say that someone is behaving inappropriately at the workplace. They're bothering another employee (or even several employees) and gentle reminders haven't been working to deter them.
Eventually, your employees will stop tolerating that behavior. Your inability to open up a difficult conversation will lead to your valued employees feeling devalued and choosing to find work elsewhere.
You may also lose employees who feel uncomfortable with your communication style (or lack thereof). You may think that employees prefer not receiving criticism, but this isn't true.
They notice if you stop assigning projects to them or if you're avoiding them. This may cause them some anxiety. By trying to keep them happy, you're actually risking them.
3. You may prevent employee growth
Even if your employees stay with you, you're not giving them the opportunity to grow and thrive within your company.
Your employees want to do good work. They want to continue moving up in the company (or at the very least, they want to keep their current positions). If there's more that they could be doing, you're hurting both them and your company as a whole by not talking about it.
Let's say that you have a skilled marketer on your team, but she lacks experience with design. You know that she's bright and capable, and that she has a strong art background. You could recommend professional development so she can continue doing more for your company (for a hefty raise), but you choose not to bring that up.
Instead, you hire a new marketing team member who can do design work. Your employee feels jilted because she's now lost some autonomy over her position. You should have given her feedback so she had the opportunity to grow.
4. Revenue (or reputation) loss
All of these things can lead to a serious drop in revenue and even a damaged company reputation (which will lead to a further revenue drop).
When you're unwilling to give honest and accurate performance reviews or encourage professional development, your employees won't be able to do their best work. They won't be as productive or successful as they should be, but it won't be their fault; it will be yours.
When your employees can't grow, your business can't grow. While you can supplement your employees' weak points by hiring more employees, it's far more effective and affordable to have those tough conversations and let your employees improve themselves.
If you develop a reputation as a poor communicator, you'll also miss out on talented future employees. The problem will continue building upon itself.
How to have difficult conversations
So how can you fix your problem and start opening up those difficult conversations in the workplace? It's not always going to be easy. Even after you've learned how to have difficult conversations at work, there will be times in which you feel nervous about them.
Here are a few difficult conversation tips to get you started.
1. Don't hesitate
This is the most important tip, but it's also the hardest one to implement. No matter how nervous you are about confrontation, don't wait to have the conversation. Waiting will only make things worse.
When you put off a difficult conversation, you're building it up in your head. You're also letting problems build upon each other because you're not letting them be fixed. This will make a future conversation more difficult.
2. Be direct
Many people who are nervous about difficult conversations choose to "beat around the bush," so to speak. You're not softening the blow by doing this. You're creating a frustrating situation for everyone involved.
Try to stick to the facts. It's helpful to bring notes with you even if you only have a small amount of criticism to offer. Pinpoint specific problems or events.
3. Practice active listening
Part of being a good communicator is being a good listener. Try to practice active listening skills when you're having these hard conversation.
When your employee is talking, make eye contact and indicate that you're understanding what they're saying. Ask relevant questions and pay attention to their body language.
4. Work toward a solution
All difficult conversations should be solution-oriented. When you start a tough conversation with the end goal of fixing a problem, you get to collaborate with your employee instead of seeing them as an adversary.
It's a good idea to come up with a few potential solutions beforehand but keep an open mind to any suggestions that your employees make.
Don't put off difficult conversations at work
It can be challenging and scary to approach difficult conversations in the workplace, but it will be good for you, your employees, and your business as a whole. When you learn how to have these conversations, you become a more effective communicator overall. Your business will thrive as a result.
Are you looking for a way to give your employees more effective feedback and an easier way to communicate? Check out our pricing plan and try a demo of Mesh today.