Ace that Difficult Conversation at Work!

From confronting a colleague to providing tough feedback, most people will have a difficult conversation at work. Sit down and take the time to think through these points. With preparation, you'll lower your stress and find success!

Step 1. Think Through What You Want to Say and Accomplish.

What do you want to talk about? Is there more than one topic? Would it be helpful if you had support (like reports, statistics, or reviews)? What are your goals for conversation? Anticipate questions and craft responses that provide answers and stay on message.

Step 2. Prepare Yourself Emotionally for the Conversation.

Do you have a tense history with this person? Are there triggering topics? What's the best that could happen? What's the worst that could happen? How will this conversation impact your relationship? Will it have an impact on other people in the office?

Step 3. How Does This Person Best Receive Information?

  • Tone: You've worked with them for months, maybe even years. You've worked on projects together and sat next to them in meetings. Traditionally, what tone most gets the best results? Formal? Friendly? Do they need a compliment sandwich or do they prefer to get straight to the point? Would it ease the tension if you joked around? Or would it have the opposite effect?
  • Timing: What time of day is she at her best? The least stressed and most open to conversation. First thing in the morning? During a mid-afternoon break? Have the chat when she has the energy to be receptive.
  • Location: What kind of conversation is this? Professional? Personal? If it's professional, what environment would be the most comfortable? Your office? His office? The conference room? The bench outside? If it's personal, would he be more receptive if you went out for coffee or a drink after work?
  • Messenger: Are you the best person to have the conversation? If this isn't a personal issue, would she/he/they be more receptive if a friend or colleague broached the topic?