Approaching difficult conversations with colleagues



Approaching difficult conversations with colleagues


It’s always tricky trying to start or engage in an uncomfortable conversation with someone you work with. Whether it’s personal issues with somebody, professional problems or anything that makes you feel awkward, it’s not pleasant.

Hopefully this advice will give you some idea as to how to handle the situation.


First of all you need to think about the seriousness of the topic. If it’s a sensitive issue then a more formal route or pre-planned meeting may be the best route to go down. Perhaps suggest somewhere comfortable like a private office to discuss the issue.

Of course this depends on who the person is too. Are they in a higher position than you? Are they a particularly nervous person? This observation ultimately decides which environment is most suited to your meeting. An authoritative figure would probably appreciate a more professional environment whilst a shy, nervous colleague may feel more comfortable in a less intimidating place. Essentially, choosing the right place to have the conversation is a key aspect of handling the situation correctly.


Then of course you need to be clear about your issue. Don’t beat around the brush or sugar coat the issue as a way of trying to be the ‘nice guy’. Of course you shouldn’t be abrasive or harsh, but be clear about what the conversation is about and what need to be done about the issue. It’ll be easier for you to get your result and it’s better for your colleague since they’ll only need to hear it once. They’ll also appreciate that difficulty you faced in approaching the subject and respect you for doing so professionally.


It’s probably an obvious point, but in order to be clear about the issue you need to have a clear vision of what your objective is eg. What you want to happen afterwards and how you want to proceed.


Another important thing to remember is that it’s a good idea not to let your emotions interfere with the conversation. Try not to get visibly angry or upset as it’ll make you feel like you’re losing control of the situation and both you and your colleague will feel uncomfortable. Similarly, if it’s a colleague you are friendly with, don’t let your personal feelings for said person cloud your vision and lessen the importance or urgency of the issue.


Lastly I’m going to suggest that you need to preserve the relationship as best you can. Not a problem if the conversation is awkward but not overly concerning, but if it’s a sticky situation then remaining professional and informing the colleague that your conversation is purely on a professional level and not personal, will help you keep your work relationship in tact.


To sum up, it’s essential that you fully think about the best way to approach the conversation with the colleague in question and have a plan in mind of how you want the conversation to go. Being prepared and acting respectably will help you out a lot.



Written by Katy James



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