Stop Avoiding That Tough Conversation

Most of us have had times when we know something is not right and we need to address the issue with another person head on. It could be your boss is going around you and working directly with your employees without keeping you informed or maybe behaving in ways that are undermining you. Maybe it’s a peer jockeying for your job or part of your role. It might be a subordinate who seems to be sabotaging you.

There may be two different reactions:

  1. You notice it but shrug it off as unimportant. “That’s just the way it is.” “Hey we’re a team here.”
  2. It bothers you. You feel something is not right and it’s not good for you or your position.
    1. By the way, if you don’t notice anything, then take the blinkers off and pay attention to what is going on around you.


      Ignore It At Your Own Peril



      So let’s assume you do notice it and it does concern you or at a minimum peaks your interest. These kinds of issues are distracting. Without resolution they remain in the back of your mind, stealing valuable brain power. It can cause anxiety, lack of sleep, anger and even illness. Left too long it might cause you to act irrationally…blow up in a meeting, sabotage a project, complain to others behind their back, or even worse.
      Humans typically avoid unpleasant situations and if you are already loaded with work and you are doing a great job there is a tendency to put it on the “to do “ list and it never seems to make it to the top. Unfortunately it won’t go away and you may be the loser.
      The sooner you have that tough conversation with the apparently offending person, the faster you will resolve the issue and move forward…and feel better.


      Don’t Wait. Address It Head On.


      1. Step back and look at the situation from a company and business perspective. Ask what damage is this causing or how is it detracting from a smooth successful operation?
      2. Write down specifically what the issue is and very clearly the outcome you desire and what success looks like.
      3. Look at it from the other person’s perspective. Look for that person’s positive intention. What would cause a rational person to act in this manner. Many times people are driven by ignorance, fear or desire to protect themselves. (job, position, personal perception, prestige, reputation)
      4. List what possible things you may be doing to cause the issue. Are you excluding others,showing favoritism, not following up, micro-managing etc.
      5. Is the other person correct in their assessment? If so act accordingly. If not proceed.
      6. Make two columns, one for you and one for the other person.
      7. Identify the common objective that you both have. Answer the questions below as open minded as possible. This will lead you to having a fuller and clearer understanding of the situation and provide direction for a face to face meeting.
      8. Action Me Them
        The Issue How I see it How would they see it?
        Value to the business Doing it my way Doing it their way
        Personal value What does this do for me? What could it mean to them?
        Actions Observed What have I done
        to contribute to the issue?
        What actions have you observed?
        Purpose of Action Mine Theirs
        Common Objective What do we both want?
        Win Win Plan Value to me Value to them

      9. Put your proposal together and use your answers in the above table to fine tune it to meet both of your needs and to anticipate counter points. Rehearse what you will say as well as your positive responses to potential counterpoints or negative reactions.
      10. Ask for a meeting with the “offending” person.
      11. Set the ground rules for the discussion. Don’t make it personal.
      12. Be open to truly understanding the other person’s point of view and working to find a common purpose to allow you both to win.

        Know your back off position before going into the meeting.

        The meeting

        • Set your intentions before going into the meeting, how you want to be…open, friendly, respectful, curious….Go into the meeting with a positive orientation that the other person is not “out to get you” or is the enemy. Rather go with the feeling that you are looking for the facts (Just the facts Ma’am) and a solution that serves you both.
        • Take the position that you want to understand the other’s perspective and their rationale for their belief or actions. Probe and ask questions to get clarity. (do not interrogate)
        • At this point you are not giving opinions. This is fact finding time.

        • Get agreement on what you both want for the business.

        • Make it about the business and the company not about you

        • Explain your position and explain how their actions are detracting from achieving the desired results for the business. Clearly and succinctly explain your rationale for what needs to be done.

        • Look for ways to make it mutually beneficial.
        • In the end, be prepared to stand your ground if necessary and have a plan to take it higher for a decision.

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