Nobody enjoys having the tough conversations. The guy who leaves his practice gear in his locker until the air is so thick with the stench you can see it. The woman in the cube next to you who hums all day. The person who just isn’t pulling his/her weight. Or the employee who has taken too many sick days for an ailing parent. Yeah, those conversations. Nobody likes them. It is much easier to complain to someone else rather then address the problem. Easier, but doesn’t solve anything. In fact it will make it worse.
The volcano method doesn’t work either. That is, don’t say anything for as long as you can. Wait until you reach your absolute explosion point and then, scream. Not pretty, not productive and very destructive to the team and your relationship with the other person.
If your team has developed a communication fingerprint you already have an accepted method for addressing these types of conflict while they are still little annoyances. If you don’t, your job is going to be a little more challenging. Not impossible. Just a bit challenging.
Step 1: Make sure you know exactly what is bothering you and what the best solution is for you. Be prepared to compromise. But know what you would like going in.
Step 2: Don’t ambush the person. Nobody wants to be called out in a public setting or without time to prepare. You have been thinking about this issue and the conversation you want to have for a long time. They have been going through life happy-go-lucky thinking everything is fine. Have an idea of somewhere private you can talk. Start with something like, “I have a concern I’d like to talk to you about. Is now a good time or can we schedule something later today?”
Step 3: Own your part of the concern by starting the conversation with an “I” statement. For example: “Joan, I think it is really great that you are such an upbeat person. When you hum during the day I get distracted. I am sure you do it unconsciously so I was wondering if you could help me come up with an inconspicuous way I could point it out to you.” Or “Jeff, I’ve been noticing at practice that you have been a step behind of late. Is everything Okay?”
Step 4: Actively listen. Give the person space to talk/explain. Engage in a conversation with them to make sure you understand and they feel heard.
Step 5: Be gracious and keep your cool while sticking to your need for change. If they become defensive, roll with it. “I can understand that you would be upset about this. It is an awkward conversation for me too. I just felt like it was better for us to talk about it now than for me to just stew until I couldn’t take it anymore.”
Step 6: When you notice positive change be genuinely thankful as appropriate (not if is going to embarrass them again. Then just let it slide).
My clients often find it useful to practice tough conversations with me just to work through the vocabulary and deal with the ‘stress’ feeling about having it. If you don’t have anyone to talk through it with you make sure you do a thorough job of step one.
Tell us about the tough conversations you need to have or ones you had and how they turned out!
Check in next week to learn about interviewing to determine fit!
Last week’s post provided pointers for dealing with emotional stuff, yours and everybody else’s. Read it here if you missed it.