The person you are going to talk to isn’t going to like what you
have to say. They are going to take it personally. You are going to
challenge them and their reaction may be defensive, antagonistic or accusatory.
As a senior manager concerned with the quality of people
management within the organisation I was surprised at how many
managers felt ill equipped to have a ,”difficult” conversation with
one of their staff. Even some experience managers felt apprehensive
and then there were the managers who tackled the situation like a bull
in a china shop /head on confrontation such that they themselves
became the subject of a bullying complaint.
Maybe it was a back to work interview with a team member with a
poor attendance record, a one to one with an individual who repeatedly
missed deadlines, made cynical comments in team meetings and whose
inconsistent work needed double checking or maybe it was inappropriate
behaviour and comments made to and about colleagues.
The policies and procedures for back to work interviews and one
to one supervision sessions were clear never the less difficult
conversations were frequently put off, took place but the individual
thought it was just a chat or the confrontational nature of the
meeting escalated the situation dragging in HR, the union and senior management.
Some managers felt they would benefit from a script others
suggested that some role play would give them practice and confidence.
HR felt that anything that stoped routine management scenarios
escalating into formal procedures would be progress. Senior
management were keen to improve the quality of people management
seeing poor management as hand break on progress.
We produced two corporate DVDs one on back to work interviews the
other one to one supervision sessions. The scripts was drawn up by
operational managers and HR and professional actors were employed to
play the parts of manager and employee. Every manager in the
organisation was given their own copy of each DVD. The managers
induction programme and development programme was adapted to include a
role playing session on, “difficult conversations”.
Blair Mcpherson former Director ,author and blogger www.blairmcpherson.co.uk