Accountants | J.J. Byrne & Co.


Difficult Conversations

Important reasons why it pays to have difficult conversations with employees

Everyone deals with stress differently. Some people will confront it and try to overcome it immediately; others prefer to step away and avoid it completely. It’s an instinct created by an acute stress response known as “fight or flight”.

In extreme circumstances it’s a matter of survival, but when it crops up as a result of stress in the workplace, it can cause great difficulties unless the correct HR processes are put in place.

For example, verbally fighting with an employee over their poor performance can put your reputation at risk, or worse. On the flip side, avoiding an employee with chronic lateness can end up costing your business a lot of time and money.

By taking a moment to allow yourself time and space to tackle a difficult conversation with an employee this will allow you to plan what you want to say and what you want to achieve in a constructive manner.

Clearing up misunderstandings

What may seem like a problem with an employee could be a misunderstanding or breakdown in communication. Whilst you have one understanding of a situation, the employee may present what they deem to be a different turn of events.

Approaching the subject with an open mind, and taking the time to consider both sides of the story, will help you to come to the right solution. Having a brief informal chat can save you an HR headache in the long run.

Reminding employees of the way things are done

Your Employee handbook will have set out ‘the way things are done around here’ for new employees when they joined your company. But if you sense that rules are not being respected or adhered to later in their employment it’s important to broach the situation.

A private chat with an offending employee gives you the opportunity to remind them of the policies and procedures that they agreed to when they joined the company. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but not addressing this issue can lead to much bigger obstacles.

Providing an opportunity to move forwards

Is there an elephant in the room? Is it getting in the way of progress and twisting your view? If this is true for you, it’s likely going to be the case for others.

Perhaps the fear of the unknown is making a conversation feel like a challenge. But once you move beyond the initial uneasiness you will find opportunities for growth, allowing you and your employees to overcome obstacles and move on.

Open and honest discussions help you to understand if and how changes need to be made. You may discover that an employee needs more training, a process could be reviewed or that more formal disciplinary action is required.

Building essential skills

Your management and leadership style will grow as your business does, and each new employee can present a new challenge or opportunity for learning. Tackling employee problems not only takes and builds courage but it also develops several other management skills.

See this as an opportunity to work on negotiation, conflict resolution, listening and strategizing. Overcoming challenges is key to honing your management style.

The same can be said for employees. Starting the conversation can help them to overcome difficulties and change behaviours for the better.

Protecting your business

If it was a choice between a difficult conversation and a Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) claim, it would obviously be easier to face the difficult conversation.

Dealing with employee problems when they arise can help to resolve them early on and prevent escalation. We hope that you never have to face the WRC and we provide local and personal HR support to try and prevent such occurrences but if you do, showing evidence of your procedural attempts to resolve a conflict with a claimant will look favourable for your defence.

If you need any further advice please do not hesitate to contact The HR Lounge on 056 7712471.