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When operating in the workplace, it is essential to remember that not every day will be sunshine and rainbows. There will be conflicts amongst employees, performance issues, and other topics you will need to address when leading a team. As a leader, effectively handling these issues will be vital to ensuring business carries on smoothly, and employees remain comfortable. Here are nine tips for handling difficult conversations as a leader, as featured in an article by Insperity

The first tip to remember is to conquer your fears. Leaders often fear that they don’t know how to engage with their employees about specific issues properly because they don’t want to upset them, and employees are also afraid to feel like they’re making mistakes. The truth is that employees are not always aware of how their behavior affects others in the workplace, so it is imperative to overcome the fear of upsetting anyone and make sure you always do what is best for the company. Next, do your homework. This means that before you address any issues, you must have proof. Confronting employees based on observations or hearsay alone can be detrimental for all involved. However, be positive when speaking with your team. Using argumentative tones can set the conversation off negatively and keep you and your employees from properly getting your point across. 

It’s important to leave emotions out of these conversations. Avoid starting sentences off with “I feel” or “I’m disappointed” because it heightens personal feelings in the situation and clouds judgment. Ensure that whenever you address an issue with your employees, you have a suitable setting. Off-site meetings are not always interpreted well; it’s advisable to use a conference room or grab a coffee at the office to keep things private but appropriate. If the chat is not going to be relatively quick, you should almost always have a reliable witness present. This is beneficial to avoid any policy violations. HR representatives and other managers are good third-parties to have present during these conversations. 

Remember to be consistent. Avoid showing favoritism and changing the style of conversation for different employees. This holds everyone equally accountable for their actions. Keep things confidential and show your employees that they can trust you. When employees feel comfortable that you are a trustworthy boss, conversations become honest and effective. Lastly, always revert back to the discussions and review them. Follow up one-on-ones show employees that they matter and have your full support even when they need to improve in certain areas.