Avoiding Difficult Conversations?

Updated: Nov 26, 2020

I think we all know in our hearts that ignoring difficult conversations never leads to a great outcome for either you or your team. However, there are so many of us and the bosses we work with that will do anything to avoid having that tricky conversation. Why is that?

Is it because of fear? Fear of doing/saying the wrong thing? Fear of being attacked? Fear of coming off mean? Fear of confrontation in general?

I get that. I do. But, shouldn't the fear of showing the rest of your team that you don't value them or the productivity of the department outweigh any personal fears you may have?

A great way to build trust with your team is to show them that you will manage inappropriate behavior or behavior that goes against the culture and productivity of the team. It also allows both you and the other person (or people) the opportunity to grow and learn. If you can re-frame how you view these conversations it will help you handle them swiftly before things get out of control. For example, instead of focusing on dreading the conversation, you look at it as it's necessary so the team can work together better or before this person gets themselves into serious hot water. Re-frame your thought process to focus on the outcome.

I wouldn't say that I've had a tremendous amount of difficult conversations over the years because I work hard on my relationships with my teams, but I've had enough to learn from and be thankful for. I can say that out of all of these conversations, I've only had two that I can remember where the other person couldn't hear or understand the message because they jumped immediately to defense mode and completely walled themselves off. Most of the time the other person had no clue what they were doing was being close-minded or had an effect on others. They welcomed the feedback and walked away knowing that my approach was to create an environment of mutual respect, not to chastise or belittle. They were almost always thankful and appreciative. Remember we all want to be valued and I have to believe that most people would never want to put themselves in a situation at work where they are seen as valuing themselves more than the rest of their team. Even if it's just for appearance's sake.

Having these conversations definitely means you need to plan your approach. (Stay tuned, more on this to come!) You must have a plan, be able to listen and have empathy, AND you must always drive the conversation to the best outcome for the team/department/company.

So if you know you are avoiding a conversation that needs to be had, think about the effect it's having on that person, you, and your team.

Make a decision.

Do you want to be the boss that lives in fear and doesn't have the trust and respect from their direct reports? Or, do you want to be the Leader resolves issues swiftly, and sends a clear message to those in your charge that you value them and a healthy work environment?