How to approach difficult conversations with an employee

Q: What’s the best way to approach having a difficult conversation with an employee?

Imagine this: one of your therapists comes in late for the third time in two weeks. You know they’re having some issues at home, but it’s more than that. There’s been a lack of overall motivation in the past few months.

This employee is always complaining about someone or something and you need to address this in their upcoming review, but you don’t want to lower their motivation levels even further. What do you do?

Before you say anything, figure out what your objective is. Do you want to find out what is behind their recent behaviour? Do you want to find a way to increase their productivity? Do you want an apology?

Depending on your choice, the conversation will veer in different directions. For example, if you want to inspire your therapist to be more productive, don’t start by pointing out their wrongdoings or demanding an apology. This may sound obvious but it is one of the most underused techniques in conversation.

Think about the person you will be speaking to, because every one of your employees is different. It’s ludicrous to think that one management strategy fits all, considering that everyone has different trigger points and motivators. Before having the tough conversation, think about who you are about to address, what makes them tick and which words are right for them.

Lastly, have a courageous conversation with yourself. There is absolutely no point in approaching a difficult situation if you don’t want to resolve it. Often, we have been so badly hurt by someone that our barriers are just too high to have a productive conversation.

In those times, a discussion turns into an excuse to argue and that’s not progress. Once you know your objective, you’re set to choose the right words and tone, which will allow your therapist to accept feedback more positively.

Janet TarasJanet Taras is an award-winning public speaker, conversation strategist and wellness expert for skincare brand Aromatherapy Associates’ Support collection.

Watch our exclusive PBTV video with Aromatherapy Associates' Yvonne Wake on boosting your therapists' wellbeing through nutrition