How to Handle Difficult Conversations at Work

How to Handle Difficult Conversations at Work

The workplace can be a difficult place to navigate. Colleagues may not understand their work style, they might have an unsupportive boss, or people might ignore them. It is often hard to know how to communicate the needs and desires of themselves and others in this environment. Alexander Djerassi discusses some strategies for handling these difficult conversations at work:

1. Prepare beforehand to increase their confidence and control

They can spend a couple of minutes doing some breathing exercises to relax or think through their point before they have the conversation. If possible, they might ask a supportive manager or colleague to join them to back them up. When they feel confident and relaxed, state what needs to change in as few words as possible. In an office setting, this means focusing on behavior rather than personality traits– instead of “they are always late,” say “when they have deadlines coming up, being on time would be helpful.” The more specific and concise their statement, the better (it’s hard for people not to take it personally if they don’t know which one bit of their behaviour is bothering them).

2. Keep it professional

This is not the time for personal attacks. Stick to the facts, and avoid sarcasm or criticism. If they resort to personal comments, it will only distract from their point and make it harder for the other person to take them seriously.

3. Communicate effectively

There is no way around it: They have to communicate their feelings and thoughts clearly and directly, without being too confrontational or using passive-aggressive tactics. It’s important to stay calm and assertive when talking to someone difficult and avoid getting into a shouting match or power struggle.

4. Change the mindset

It’s easy to have a single difficult relationship define the entire work environment. It’s not uncommon for people to feel like jerks surround them at their place of work, but it can be helpful to take a step back before jumping to conclusions.

5. Don’t take the bait

There’s a good chance that the difficult person at work will try to get under their skin or provoke them during the conversation. According to Djerassi, it’s important not to take the bait and be firm in explaining the behavior that they expect from them. Be polite but assertive, and if they can’t hear their points of view, then it’s likely that they are not worth speaking to anymore.

6. Manage their emotions

It’s important to remember that they don’t have to respond to everything a difficult person says or does. They can tell them what they like from them, and if they choose not to accept it, then that’s their choice. It’s sometimes hard when people are disrespectful, but try their best to manage their emotions and avoid being dragged into a fight unnecessarily.

All colleagues, managers, and bosses must respect the boundaries around confidentiality in the workplace for these strategies to work. If a conversation about behavior needs is being held with an individual, make sure everyone agrees on how it should occur before anything happens.
In conclusion, Alexander Djerassi‘s tips help manage difficult conversations with colleagues. Difficult interactions can derail our productivity and negatively affect their work environment, but they don’t have to.