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    We Need To Talk: Why you needn't dread those four little words.
    The Vault

    We Need To Talk: Why you needn't dread those four little words.

    April 2016

    Are you dreading having a particular conversation at work?  Rest assured, your colleague is, too.  Better yet, he or she is likely struggling to figure out how to put you at ease.

    A recent survey conducted by Fractl, which asked 1,100 people about difficult conversations at work, revealed that most people, nearly 66%, not only plan on being agreeable and considerate when walking into a difficult conversation, but actually go out of their way to do make the other person feel comfortable.  That same number said that they’re likely to concede that they played a role in creating an uncomfortable situation, while 81% acknowledged that there are multiple perspectives. More than 75% of respondents said that they’re likely to be direct and concise. That’s all good news for someone who’s about to have a difficult conversation.  And it’s a good lesson for the aggressive, combative types out there.  If you walk into a meeting assuming the other person is out to get you, you’re likely very, very off track.

    Are your palms sweating?  Hang in there, because your counterpart is probably just as nervous as you are. Research reveals that, across all levels of management, nervousness is prevalent.  By far, the most uncomfortable conversation to have involves negotiating a raise.  58% of respondents feel uncomfortable having this discussion, with women being more uncomfortable than men (66% vs. 50%).

    In order of most nerve-wracking, the toughest conversations at work are:

    1. Negotiating a raise
    2. Handling a difficult personality
    3. Addressing lack of accountability (self)
    4. Addressing lack of accountability (other person)
    5. Apologizing for a mistake
    6. Clarifying direction

    So we know that people are nervous, what conversations make them particularly nervous, and that they’re heading into such conversations with a collaborative mindset.  That’s the good news.  The bad news, particularly for business owners, is that people are less satisfied with the outcome of a difficult conversation when that conversation was had with a superior.  More than 75% felt satisfied with the outcome of a conversation with a direct report, compared to 46% feeling somewhat or completely satisfied with the results of a discussion with a supervisor.  Managers should take particular note of the data showing that, even if you walk out of a challenging discussion feeling good about the outcome, your employee may not share your outlook.

    So what can you do?  How can you have more productive conversations that end with both parties feeling satisfied? Here are a few tips:

    1. Prepare for the conversation, but maybe not in the way you think.  Determine what you want to get out the conversation, but don’t go in planning to ‘win’ the conversation.
    2. Treat the conversation as two people working together to solve a problem.  From the book Powerful Conversations: How High Impact Leaders Communicate, use the following framework:
    • What’s Up: Tell your side of the situation and ask the other person how he or she sees it.
    • What’s So: Get to the facts, and remove any emotional charge from the conversation. Discuss the impact on each of you, the team, and the larger organization. Ask the other person for feedback.
    • What’s Possible: Discuss possible solutions or alternatives, and ask the other person for the same.
    • Let’s Go: Commit on both sides to taking action with accountability included.
    1.  During the conversation, pause your own agenda to really listen to the other person’s side. Do not allow nervousness to rush to tell, fix, or manage.   Aim to diffuse the emotional charge, hear the other person, and come out with a solution. You can create incredible outcomes if you just reset.

    What’s worse than having a difficult conversation?  Avoiding one.  As we discussed in previous blog, conflict is good for organizations.  Shift your mindset from seeing difficult conversations as hurdles to seeing them as resources. Safety is perilous. Difficulty is strengthening.

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