Can We Talk? – Roberta Chinsky Matuson
Managing teams and workplace conflict
Silence isn’t always golden.
70 percent of employees admit to avoiding challenging conversations with their colleagues.
Subscribe to Miniwise Newsletter (Free!)
Miniwise newsletter brings you one great bite-sized idea every day, curated from world's best non-fiction books, articles, podcasts..and more. An entire new world in just 5 minutes!
A 2016 study found that every failed conversation costs companies $7,500 and 7 days of work. Not only that, but a 2008 report revealed that the average employee spends 2.8 hours per week managing difficult situations.
Workplace issues don’t just go away when we ignore them
Poor or absent workplace communication inevitably ends up eroding organizational trust, worker satisfaction, and productivity.
There’s no handbook for navigating difficult workplace conversations, no manual on how to ask your boss to stop micromanaging, and no step-by-step guide on how to tell Gary from accounts that he has onion breath.
The good news, however, is that if you understand the seven principles of effective workplace communication, these difficult conversations will start to become a whole lot easier.
Confidence is key to navigating difficult workplace situations productively.
When you are able to inspire confidence in others, you instantly reframe your tricky requests into reasonable ones.
In short, confidence is the key to initiating conversations, allowing your best instincts to dictate your dialogue, and priming others to respond favourably to your requests.
Make clarity a priority.
Before you begin a conversation, figure out what you want from it. Set a concrete goal.
Decide ahead of time what you’re prepared to risk to achieve your desired result. There’s nothing worse than threatening to quit your job, only to have your boss take you up on the offer!
Keep your objective in mind
You’re all about clarity, but the other person may not be. If they try to deflect your focus, steer back to your objective and stick to the facts.
While you should be prepared for the conversation to go poorly, don’t be surprised if it goes well.
As a rule, people want to work with and for compassionate people. No one wants a boss who doesn’t care that their grandma just died or a colleague who only grumbles about the extra workload when someone on their team breaks a leg.
Demonstrating empathy and compassion for others helps establish goodwill and rapport—two things that go a long way toward smoothing out potentially difficult workplace interactions.
Getting in touch with your inner child can pay dividends when it comes to workplace communication.
But we are suggesting you tap into a childlike sense of inquisitiveness the next time you face a difficult conversation.
Questions like, “Why do you think this happened?” And what do you think our next steps should be? Invite your partner to collaborate on achieving a constructive outcome from your discussion.
Here’s how to have win-win discussions:
Keep things respectful. You might be making a straightforward request for time off, or you might be grappling with a bigger-picture issue on which you and your teammate can’t see eye to eye.
No matter how simple or complex the conversation, you’ll derail it the moment you disrespect the other person. The perceived disrespect will take precedence over the topic at hand, whether they show it or not.
Navigate a tough discussion
If you know you’re about to initiate a tough conversation and you’re anticipating some pushback, put in some work before the discussion.
Clarify why you’re talking and keep that at the forefront of your mind during the discussion.
Don’t just ask your boss for “more responsibility”—say exactly which tasks you’re interested in taking on and suggest a timeframe for doing so.
Make sure you know what you’re talking about.
Learn about the field you’re working in – and remember, developments in your area will continue to take place long after you’ve received your qualifications.
Stay on top of current research and trends.
The same principle applies to meetings and presentations.