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As a manager, it can be hard to navigate the waters of difficult conversations. Difficult conversations are often uncomfortable and emotionally charged—no one really wants to have them, but they are an essential part of management. This blog post I discuss why managers find it hard to have difficult conversations and how to make them easier.  

The Fear of Conflict  

One of the biggest reasons I find that managers find it hard to have difficult conversations is because they fear conflict. It’s natural to feel anxious or uneasy when you’re about to engage in a disagreement with someone. Managers worry that their employee will become defensive or hostile, which can lead to an unproductive conversation. Unfortunately, this fear can cause a manager to avoid having the conversation altogether—which only serves to make the problem worse. The crucial point here is to know your employee well, and to have a solid and good relationship with them.  

The Lack of Training  

Another issue is that many managers lack the training necessary for having effective difficult conversations. For example, many managers haven’t been taught how to effectively manage emotions or how to handle challenging behaviours in a productive way. Without proper training, these kinds of conversations often end up being confrontational and unhelpful. Knowing how to recognise where they are in the conversation and how to delve or go back up a level in the conversation is a skill really needing to be mastered.  

The Need for Empathy  

Finally, there’s the need for empathy. Many managers are afraid that if they show empathy towards their employee during a difficult conversation, then they won’t be taken seriously or respected as a leader. However, showing empathy is key when having these kinds of conversations—it helps build trust between the manager and the employee and encourages an open dialogue.  A successful difficult conversation requires both sides to feel heard and understood; by showing empathy towards your employee, you can help ensure this happens.  

In summary….  

Difficult conversations are inevitable in any managerial role—the key is finding ways to make them less daunting and more productive for everyone involved. By facing your fear of conflict head-on and seeking out training on how best to manage emotions during tough conversations, you’ll be better prepared for whatever comes your way as a manager. Additionally, don’t forget that empathy is essential in any kind of conversation; by showing empathy towards your employees during these tough talks, you can help create an atmosphere where everyone feels heard and understood. With these tips in mind, you’ll be well equipped succeed at even the most challenging difficulties conversations! 

If you would like support or assistance to have a mediated conversation, do get in contact with us here at Bower HR. 

Serena Bower (MCIPD) 

Director, Bower HR Limited 

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