When the Going Gets Tough: How to Navigate Challenging Conversations

Sometimes, conversations can be just plain hard. We often consider tough conversations as the ones employees have with managers, but the conversations managers have with higher-ups to advocate for their team members can be just as stressful.

That’s definitely the case when you’re in the position of needing to address feedback that necessitates change. Change is never the easiest topic to discuss — and change accompanied by a required investment of time and/or money can be especially challenging.

But just because the conversation might not be the easiest doesn’t mean it’s not an essential one to have. Whether you’re working in human resources or a management role, occasionally issues crop up that require problem-solving and the insights of multiple levels of your organizational leadership.

Learning how to approach those conversations is a key part of maintaining a cohesive team, hiring and retaining effective employees, and getting stuff done. Read on as we offer some tips on how to smooth out those conversations and make them more successful.

When Tough Conversations Are Needed
Let’s start by considering why these challenging conversations come up in the first place. In many cases, discussions about big changes are the result of feedback from frontline workers.

Consider this: When an employee provides feedback of some small change that would make life easier (think a simple process improvement that will streamline your department’s workflow), that change is likely fairly easy to implement. It might require sign-off from leadership, but probably not a ton of conversation about why the change is needed.

But in many cases, team members have feedback about desired changes that are bigger picture and require a major investment or change in processes or protocols. When you’re the person receiving that feedback, how do you make that happen?

It starts with having the right mindset.

“The most important thing to think about is why your company is asking for feedback in the first place,” says Max Farrell, WorkHound CEO and Co-Founder. “You’re not looking to validate how things already are…you’re looking to discover ways to improve the way you work. So you need to be ready when that feedback comes.”

Now You Have the Feedback, So What’s Next?
Once you’ve received challenging feedback, your next step as an advocate for your team is to determine how to broach the topic with your directors. Consider the following tips to make your meeting a success:

  • Go into the meeting with confidence. Your job, after all, is to listen to the feedback of your company’s employees and take a stand for their well-being and needs. If you are confident in the legitimacy of what they’re requesting and how it will positively impact the business, this should help you deliver your message with composure.
  • Arm yourself with information. Before you address the topic of making significant change within your company, first make sure you can show the proof to the person or people you’re speaking with. Part of that is having a record of what your employees are saying — that’s one area where tools like WorkHound are essential, providing you a feedback mechanism that allows you to clearly document requests.
  • Know what change needs to be made. It’s important to be clear about the required level of investment, and it never hurts to offer up multiple options. Go into your conversation prepared with more than one idea, including smaller, yet impactful changes that could also result in change for your team. But be certain that any changes you’re proposing would have a real and meaningful impact.
  • Anticipate the reaction and prepare for it. It never hurts to think through every reaction that a person could have to an idea you’re presenting. Once you’ve laid out the possibilities, decide how you will respond to those reactions. In other words, know your next steps.

“You’re asking your team members for their feedback for an important reason, so remember that when it’s time to have a tough conversation,” Farrell says. “When you take feedback and use it to affect positive change, you show your team members that their voices are heard and that their feedback — even regarding challenging topics — is taken seriously.”

WorkHound provides you with the feedback mechanism you need to truly hear and understand your team members’ concerns. Ready to put that into action for your business? Contact us today for a demo!

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