|Type of paper:||Research paper|
|Categories:||Management Human Resources Communication skills|
Types of Difficult Conversations at Work
According to Bradley and Campbell Difficult conversations entails sensitive topics such as sexuality that makes almost impossible for employees to engage in a conversation (2016, p.1). Individuals at the workplace hesitate to engage in sensitive conversation at the time when job appraisal interviews are being conducted or in an unofficial setting with other employees because the response to such conversations is unfriendly. Other types of difficult conversations include workplace conflicts, workplace negotiation, and performance management issues. In most circumstances, the management fails to create effective conversations once faced with performance management issues.
Causes of Difficult Conversations at Work
Difficult conversations arise at the workplace as a result of the difference in position. For instance, it is not an easy conversation for an employee to discuss with his or her boss on work-related issues. Furthermore, respect for authority by virtue of assuming a low rank at work leads make it almost impossible to interact with those in the high ranking position. Besides a difference in job positions, the difference in perception and motive significantly contribute to difficult conversations (Turaga 2015, p.9).
It is normal for human beings to interpret things differently based on the knowledge and experience they have regarding the subject matter. The difference in interests and intentions regarding specific subject matter also amounts to difficult conversations because employees end up defending what is of interest and value to them. In the workplace setting, people come from different cultural backgrounds; as a result, they have unique beliefs, values, and traditions (Stone, Heen and Patton, B., 2010, p.19). Inability to understand the cultural differences such as the use of language can lead to prejudices and biases, greater factors leading to difficult conversations.
Positive and Negative Impacts of Difficult Conversations at Work
When a person engages in a difficult conversation he or she has an opportunity to learn and grow professionally. For example, managers who engage in difficult conversations are able to learn new ways of managing conflicts and gain experience and skills leading to professional maturity (Kippist and Duarte 2015, p.66). Furthermore, embracing difficult conversations lead to improved employee relations, as a result, they show high job commitment and performance. For instance, a courageous manager leads employees in difficult conversations to find amicable solutions to the raised complaints rather than avoiding the conversation. Furthermore, the difficult conversation can lead to honest communication at work thus establishing trust and confidence in the workplace (Kippist and Duarte 2015, p.69).
On the other hand, inability by the management to engage in difficult conversations amounts to low morale among the employees and job disengagement. As a result, the employee will start avoiding assigned tasks leading to unaccountability, underperformance, and resistance to change, and ruined relations (Bradley and Campbell 2016, p.2). For example, failure of the management to discuss matters better remuneration with the workers through collective bargaining agreement can lead to uncontrolled strikes, work breakdown, and unnecessary labor union legal suits (Bradley and Campbell 2016, p.3). In most circumstances, issues to do with employee dissatisfaction and uncontrolled protests affect retention of skilled employees as well as ruins the organization's public image. Therefore, the business risks losing substantial market share.
Conditions to Have Better Difficult Conversations at Work
For better difficult conversations in the workplace, employees need to have a psychological safety. Psychological safety implies the possibility of having a tough reply, openness, honesty, welcoming and accepting dissenting opinions (Turaga 2015, p.12). Psychological safety allows employees to overcome the fear of punishment, scolding, retaliation, alienation and humiliation by the management and other employees. According to google rework study (2015, p.2) successful teamwork is built depending on members psychological safety, dependability, work commitment, and objectivity. Therefore, psychological safety require setting friendly work environment that allows employees to feel safe with one another (Rozovsky 2015, p.4). The management need to be tentative in providing feedback regarding a complain, in this case, the subordinates as the primary complainants should not feel threatened or coerced to conform to unpleasant working standards (Bradley and Campbell 2016, p.5). Additionally, participants in difficult conversation should not feel victimized or subjected to bullying and harassment. The condition eliminates the feeling of denial (Mone and London 2018, p.14). Fulfilling these conditions allows employees to have high-self-esteem as well as straightforward in sharing views during difficult conversations.
Fig 1: Additional Steps Needed To Execute A Successful Difficult Conversation.
From the diagram, participants should prepare before engaging in a difficult conversation to ensure they have relevant and sufficient information at hand, set objectives and observe neutrality while engaging in a difficult situation. Upon completion of the difficult conversation, notes on key issues agreed should be kept and as well as re-echo the need for accountability and responsibility while at the workplace (Ulmer, Sellnow and Seeger 2017, p.22). In so doing, favorable conditions will be met leading to fruitful difficult conversations.
Table 1: Behaviors that lead to Accommodative Environment during Difficult Behaviors
|Type of Behavior||Description|
|Descriptive||The participants should be nonjudgmental, understanding and accepting their personal mistakes|
|Problem-Oriented||It involves showing the degree of permissiveness, collaboration and task orientation.|
|Spontaneity||It requires a participant to be honest, straightforward and genuine.|
|Empathetic||The participants should share feelings, emotions and show some extend of perspective-taking.|
|Equality||The participants should demonstrate respect for each other while disclosing information.|
|Provisionalism||It involves being tentative, tolerant and open to other participants views.|
Source: Adapted from Gibb's Defensive-Supportive Communication Climates (Bradley and Campbell 2016, p.9)
According to Susan Thomas, a manager at Divisions Medical Biochemistry and Hematopathology, better difficult conversation require partners to be realistic and objective on what they want to discuss (Thomas 2011, p.7). More so, Thomas credit early preparation and thinking through a problem as the only way to avoid the negative consequences of difficult conversations. Besides exhibiting the right behavior, choosing to discuss what is appropriate and valuable to self is crucial in the context of a difficult conversation (Holmes and Stubbe, 2015).
Current Techniques of Managing Difficult Conversations at Work
Assessing facts is one of the techniques used to manage difficult conversations. It involves the sharing of different perceptions regarding a subject matter (Thomas 2011, p.8). At this stage, it is imperative to understand that people have a different perception as per their intentions. Revealing the intentions regarding the shared perceptions helps to identify shared interests and priorities. Furthermore, in assessing the facts, it is necessary to recognize the contribution of each party in getting a resolution. Therefore, neither party should claim ownership of the resolution nor feel superior over the other person (Turaga 2015, p.11)
Secondly addressing participant emotions during difficult interaction is key to understanding how one reacts by using verbal and non-verbal cues such as facial expression, long pauses, and body posture. In so doing, it is important to identify feeling and learn how to reframe thoughts that can lead to an argument. According to Stone, Heen and Patton difficult conversation can be effectively managed at the workplace through active listening and reframe the matter at hand to ensure the conversation exhibits objectivity and eventual consequences (2010, p.4). A good leader ensures that difficult conversation leads to mutual understanding and benefits to the conflicting parties. Renegotiating on the shared ground of understanding leads to effective communication in difficulty conversations (Turaga 2015, p.15).
According to Polito, employee engagement improves communication at work and eventually leads to better work performance (2013, p. 9). Employee engagement requires a manager to develop a rapport with the employees and discuss sensitive matters as a leader and not as a boss. In managing the Threat in the workplace, it is important to understand the level of the threat and its effect on self-esteem. Accepting the nature and limit of self-image helps in developing understanding and endurance during difficult interactions. Besides manager understanding of self-image, it is important to recognize employees as humans susceptible to mistakes and shortfalls. It is therefore good to recognize a person's level of competence, integrity, honesty, and commitment at the workplace to effectively manage difficult conversations (Overton and Lowry 2013, p.238). In general, business evaluation worksheets, questionnaires, interviews and change plans to address difficult conversations at work by gathering all relevant information to identify gaps that lead to ineffective communication.
Importance of Journaling in Developing Difficult Conversation Skills
Journaling involves keeping a record of every event involving difficult conversation. Having a journal enables one to determine the pattern of unpleasant conversations such as the frequency of unpleasant experience if it is repetitive, it important to determine ways of addressing the frequent problem (Oetzel 2017, p.5). Journaling involves recording personal feelings and emotions regarding a, particularly difficult conversation. It is an actual representation of explicit feelings and emotions (Linton et al, 2016, p.150). Thus, journaling is a safe avenue that supports openness. In doing so, journaling promotes calmness and distant way of looking into an issue before making a conclusion. Journaling also nurtures difficult communication skills such as politeness and truthfulness since it gives a person to record what they truly feel (Buckingham and Goodall 2015, p.40). Furthermore, journaling enhances a person's ability to remain objective and honest since one will follows his or her experience.
Cultural Changes helping people to Manage Difficult Conversations
Currently, there are global changes in behaviors that have changed people from being secretive and defensive to people who are open to difficult discussions to find a lasting solution (Overton and Lowry 2013, p.240). More so, a change in global behaviors has led to an active engagement in debates regarding sensitive issues contrary to the previous culture that made people avoid sensitive conversations. People have resorted to negotiation, and mediation instead of using violence and abusive words in difficult conversations. Cultural alignment involves observing cultural diversity in the workplace to ensure employees are tolerant of other cultures (Overton and Lowry 201, p.259). Empathy has become popular in making business strategies such as branding. Brands are being used to communicate emotions and create a feeling of warmth and excitement among the employees. In fact, brands are being re-engineered with empathy to increase customer interaction.
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