As an HR pro, being able to talk about sensitive and emotive issues is an important part of the job, but it’s also one of the toughest.
If handled badly, such conversations, ranging from performance and conduct to personal matters, can damage team dynamics, lower morale and have a negative impact on attendance and performance levels. But according to a survey by the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution, 63% of staff and managers believe that their organisation is not prepared to have challenging conversations - even though a failure to do so tends to prolong or intensify the problem rather than restrict or resolve it. As a result, the conciliation service Acas has come up with four key ways to help you have one of those tricky chats with both sensitivity and empathy: 1. Set the right tone
Explain the purpose of the meeting
Adopt a calm and professional manner
Reassure the employee about their right to confidentiality
Focus on the issue not the person.
2. State the issue and give evidence
Tell the staff member about the problem and give examples
Explain how the issue is affecting the individual and the team
Consider whether the situation is a new one or whether you have spoken about it before as surprises are generally harder for people to handle.
3. Ask for an explanation
Listen to what the employee is saying and try to recognise any underlying causes of unhappiness or stress
Keep an open mind and don’t jump to conclusions
Introduce your questions and explore the issue together
Avoid emotive language or getting diverted from the issue.
4. Agree a way forward
Ask the worker for proposals to resolve the problem
Discuss the options
Make a decision – and remember, you are in charge
Arrange a follow-up meeting, if necessary
Monitor and provide feedback on progress and give support where required
Document any agreement and give a copy to the employee.