Five reasons why it pays to have difficult conversations with employees

Thursday March 12, 2020

People deal with stress differently. Some will confront it and try to overcome it immediately; others prefer to step away and avoid it altogether. 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 do all sorts of damage 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. Equally, avoiding an employee with chronic lateness can end up costing your business time and money.

At The HR Dept we are fans of talking things through. We feel that it can do wonders to resolve stressful situations that can arise from an employer-employee relationship. Take a moment to allocate a time and place to tackle a difficult conversation with an employee. It will allow you to plan what you want to say and what you want to achieve.

Read on for five more reasons why it pays to have difficult conversations with employees when required.

Reason one – It clears 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. And having a brief informal chat can save you an HR headache in the long run.

Reason two – It reminds employees of the way things are done

Your company 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 later in their employment it’s important to broach the situation.

A private chat with a disobedient employee gives you the opportunity to remind them of the rules and policies that they agreed to when they joined. It might feel uncomfortable at first, but not addressing this issue can lead to much bigger problems.

Reason three – It provides an opportunity to move forwards

Is there an elephant in the room? Is it getting in the way of progress and distorting 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 awkwardness you will find opportunities for growth, allowing you and your staff to overcome problems 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.

Reason four – It builds essential skills

Your management 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 strategising. 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.

Reason five – It protects your business

If it was a choice between a difficult conversation and a Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) claim, we know which we would choose.

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. Ask us about our courses on how to have difficult conversations.

Our Advice Line clients not only receive unlimited HR advice and support over telephone and email, but also benefit from employer’s indemnity insurance. So we can be there to protect your business when it needs it the most.

Preventing People Problems

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