Difficult Workplace Conversations Leaders and HR Professionals Don’t Want to Have

Having difficult conversations with employees ranks high on the list of things leaders and HR Professionals don’t want to do. If you are a new leader or HR Professional these topics are likely to find their way to you at some point.

5 Candid Conversations Leaders & HR Professionals Don’t Want to Have
  • BAD HYGIENE:  B.O. (aka Body Odor) or even bad breath.  Having a candid conversation with someone that involves poor hygiene ranks as one of the most difficult type of conversations to have. Keep in mind that there are legal aspects that you need to consider before you have the conversation.  In some cases an underlying medical condition could be the culprit and you need to address it with the employee. As a leader I have had to have the “B.O.” discussion with an employee and it was uncomfortable but it was ultimately resolved. Remember when faced with a similar situation be candid, be supportive, be considerate, be understanding, and be sensitive.
  • TERMINATION: There comes a time in almost every manager’s career when you will be in a situation where you must perform a termination. A termination should not ever be a surprise to the employee if you are providing them with consistent feedback detailing the consequences if the situation is not rectified. As a manager I would encourage you to speak with your HR Department before initiating the termination process. As a HR Professional, it is your job to ensure that you guide the process and ensure that all of the ducks are in a row. It can nerve-racking if this is your first termination as a manager. It can be beneficial to role play the termination with a team member from your HR Department. You can ensure that you hit the critical points and that you do not expose yourself to any legal issues. During the termination meeting be professional, and empathize with their situation.
  • LAYOFF ANNOUNCEMENT: Layoff announcements are important to relay in a timely manner. It is best to take ownership of the announcement, refrain from stating that it is someone else’s decision. As a representative of the organization, it is your job to accept the role as the messenger. It is best to deliver the message face to face rather than over the phone, but the situation does happen. Refrain from using email, it should be a last resort. It is very important to follow up all conversations with a formal letter or memo to ensure that the communication was clear and understood by your employee(s).
  • LIFE or DEATH:  Sharing good news can be a great perk of your management or HR role but it is extremely difficult to deliver bad news. I recall a time at a past employer where I as the facility manager were called urgently to the front desk. As I arrived a nice woman was standing there and after confirming who I was proceeded to tell me that her husband ( A new manager with our company) lost his life the night before. It was an extremely difficult situation for everyone involved. Dealing with difficult news in the workplace is a challenging aspect to being a manager. If the death is an employee, it is often going to be the responsibility of the HR Manager or Facility Manager to communicate the death to all staff members. In some cases, I would advise you to reach out to outside consultants who can assist with additional counseling and support needed to get through the crisis. This is especially true if HR is among those deeply impacted by the loss.
  • WORKPLACE INVESTIGATIONS:  As if being a leader wasn’t difficult enough, now there is an investigation into an employee’s alleged behavior. Depending on the nature of the complaint, this one could quickly require outside consultants and certainly your legal team.  Dealing with investigations, whether it is fraud or embezzlement claims or allegations of improper relations, it is important to document all conversations and request legal counsel for your protection and your company’s. 
Being a Manager is a Rewarding & Hard Job

Having difficult conversations is a part of the Manager and HR’s job.  Dealing with the unexpected is especially tough.  But, anxiety can weigh heavy when rehearsing for planned conversations such as with body odor or a termination.  Reviewing best practices before situations arise can help the HR Manager navigate these challenges and emerge a stronger leader.

Do you have a tough situation that you need to deal with? Contact us at MCDA CCG and we will pair you with one of our seasoned HR Professionals to help you navigate this situation. We can perform terminations, have a difficult conversation with somebody on your staff, or deliver difficult news. Let’s work together!

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