It is human nature to want to avoid conflict and potentially stressful situations. Many people avoid dealing with challenging situations altogether and make excuses for avoiding the issue. If a difficult situation in the workplace is not dealt with, it won’t be resolved and will often fester and get worse.

As a leader or manager you can be sure that there will be difficult situations to deal with from time to time. You can’t eliminate difficult conversations at work, but you can make them become easier with practice and how YOU approach the situation. Remember to:

  • Start with respect & act professionally. Manage your mindset and treat someone with respect.
  • Avoid the words “no,” “never” and “wrong” during a difficult conversation. Those words increase conflict. Instead, respond by seeking more information. Say: “That’s interesting. Why do you feel that way?”
  • Reframe the question. Instead of thinking “Why don’t they _____?” ask yourself “Why don’t I _____?”
  • Use names. Referring to other people by name shows respect and focuses their attention on what you are saying.

Five tips for dealing with difficult situations:

  1. Establish the facts first – Avoid jumping straight to the solution. Your first step to successful resolution of the issue it to establish the facts.
  2. Ask lots of questions – Good questions will allow you to get to the core of an issue.  Think of peeling an onion, each layer is getting you closer to the core.
  3. Active listening – There is little point in asking great questions if you are not actively listening to what is beingResist the temptation to jump in before you have properly heard the different points of view.
  4. Avoid pre-judgement. Avoid pre-judging a situation until you have heard all of the facts. Take bias out of the situation and be neutral.
  5. Aim for a win-win outcome. While this is not always possible, you should aim to find solutions that don’t result in a feeling from one party that they have lost while another has. This might require some careful negotiation around what would constitute a good outcome for all those involved.