There’s no way to avoid it: Sooner or later, every manager has to deal with difficult conversations.
There’s the employee who, despite your best efforts, just isn’t getting it; the college intern who doesn’t understand that his internship is a job which actually requires him to show up. And of course, there’s that very difficult conversation with someone who’s about to be terminated.
Rough discussions all; but not what you’d call excruciating – the excruciatingly difficult conversation is in a whole other class.
They usually occur when elements from the personal realm – bad hygiene; inappropriate or just plain awful clothing; a filthy, disgusting work space – enter the professional arena.
Nobody wants to have these conversations. They’re embarrassing for everyone involved – the employee in the hot seat, the manager who has to speak with him or her, even the co-workers who felt compelled to report the problem.
But how do you negotiate such delicate matters?
You don’t want to be harsh, but you need to meet the problem head on. You must avoid being judgmental, but still let the employee know that the situation must change. You shouldn’t pass the buck; but you also must recognize the point at which the excruciating conversation should pass out of your hands and into those of HR or even Legal.
As in so many things, when dealing with an excruciatingly difficult conversation, preparation is critical.
RLI’s solution is called the E.A.S.I.E.R. method. It’s designed to give you a comprehensive road map for navigating these painful exchanges.
E.A.S.I.E.R. stands for:
Educate yourself. Verify that the complaint is valid.
Admit to the employee that the conversation makes you really uncomfortable.
Start Fast. Don’t beat around the bush with the employee. Get to the point.
Inquire about the reason for the problem. It could be something you never suspected.
Explore possible solutions and work with the employee to resolve the issue.
Recap. Make sure that the employee understands his responsibility to solve the problem going forward.
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