Giving Feedback: how to manage difficult conversations at work

Difficult conversations are hard to manage at work, especially while everyone is trying to stay professional and keep appropriate relationships. Redundancies, negative feedback or bad performance are indeed complicated topics of conversation that need to be addressed with care.

While a good rule of thumb is to keep each other’s feelings in mind when sharing your concerns, today we bring you 5 tips to make these conversations easier for everyone.

1. Don’t delay the difficult conversations

A lot of the time, managers and teams will avoid difficult conversations in fear of ruining their work relationships or scaring people away. However, this can be more detrimental than beneficial.

Giving negative feedback and turning it into constructive comments has actually been proven to increase productivity and build trust between employees. When you build a habit of giving feedback and compliments to your team, you will create a healthy feedback culture where these “difficult conversations” are normal and easy.

If you feel like the topic might be delicate, a good trick is to prepare what you are going to say beforehand. This way you can anticipate the other person’s reaction and adapt your pitch accordingly.

2. Keep your work relationship in mind

Work relationships can be delicate so, as in any conversation, it is important to keep each other’s feelings in mind when speaking.

  • The setting is very important. Choose a room where they can sit and feel comfortable. If you’re working remotely, make sure to have a video call so you can see each other face to face. 1:1 meetings are also a good opportunity to create a safe space for difficult conversations.
  • Invite someone else. If you feel like it would make the other person more comfortable, you can invite an impartial person to the meeting that can act as a mediator.
  • Listen to both sides of the story. While you should share your concerns, there might be a reason why the other person hasn’t performed well or acted a certain way. Hear what they have to say and go from there.
  • Don’t blame anyone. Instead of blaming them or using expressions such as “you did this”, try saying “I feel like this…”, “I would’ve preferred…”, “I think you could’ve handled this better…”.
3. Always give constructive feedback

Good feedback is always constructive feedback. It can be very easy to point out what’s wrong and let your employees figure it out for themselves, but that would not be helpful at all for them. It’s only when you explain and guide them in the right direction that your team can improve and thrive.

Make sure not to take your concerns or advice personally. Different people will have different ways to work, which only enriches your team. Just because you don’t agree with the way someone completes a specific task, it doesn’t mean it can’t work with everything else.

4. Have empathy and manage your emotions

When having any kind of difficult conversation, it’s important to have empathy. If the other person is given bad news, keep in mind they may not take it well and prepare accordingly. Say your words carefully and give them time to take it in. Receiving a lot of information at a time can be very overwhelming.

If they react against you, try not to get upset. You can take the conversation slowly or have some space before picking it back up at a later time. Reassuring them that you’re not there to attack and you only want to help will redirect the conversation into a more positive note.

Offer help when you can and let them know that you will be there to find a solution together. Make sure to ask if there is anything that keeps them from being their best self. Job dissatisfaction can be dangerous and frustrating, so it is important to walk out of the conversation knowing what you can do to adapt better to your employees’ needs.

5. Cooperate to find a solution to the problem

In difficult conversations, instead of arguing, it’s best to act as a team and cooperate to find a solution to the problem.

  • Talk to them and offer ideas, but also listen to their thoughts and try to come up with a solution that fits both points of view. Their employee experience is just as important as their performance.
  • Make sure you are on the same page. It’s important that they are comfortable with the solutions you come up with, and that you both put work into making things work.

Build a happy company culture for your team

Building a healthy feedback culture where your team can share their concerns and have comfortable conversations with each other will help prevent conflicts and create trust. When you build a happy company culture, difficult conversations will become easier and fewer.

This post was brought to you by the Nailted team. Nailted is the employee engagement platform for People and HR teams that through light feedback loops facilitates continuous improvement and helps you strengthen your company culture, giving your people the best possible employee experience. Check out their interactive demo to find out more!