‘Speak and be heard.’ It’s the sound advice Pam Loch of Loch Associates is offering to employees and managers alike in order to help stop small issues become larger problems

In the past having difficult conversations with your teams was not a common occurrence. Life has changed though and nowadays those conversations are more frequent and extend beyond the usual work-related situations involving performance, career development and pay rises, to more personal issues, including health concerns and personal problems. 

Regardless of the issue involved, it is more important now than ever before that these conversations are handled correctly to ensure your employees feel heard, understood and respected. This will ultimately achieve a mutually beneficial goal. If you get it wrong though, you could score an own goal!

Why has handling these conversations correctly become so important? Firstly, it helps you to retain staff who will be more engaged and more productive. 92% of highly engaged employees believe they feel heard in the workplace. When employees feel heard, they also feel empowered to initiate difficult conversations when an issue arises.

Although this may be harder to deal with than simply brushing issues under the carpet, it creates an opportunity for changes to be discussed and to resolve any concerns before they become a bigger problem, avoiding the risk of staff opting to resign. It is always better to deal with any concerns as they arise rather than having a more complex situation to sort out later down the line.

Nipping it in the bud is the best approach and that enables managers to use their time and resources to help their team to be focused on achieving performance goals, leading to higher retention rates. 

If sensitive issues are mishandled however, employees are more likely to become demotivated, disloyal and speak negatively. They may even post anonymous, negative feedback online about the employer. All of which can have a detrimental effect on a company’s reputation and success.

A common mistake managers can make is not reacting to situations as seriously as they should do. This is especially true when an employee raises an issue informally. If the proper reaction is not taken in the first instance, this can quickly lead to a formal grievance which may spiral into a resignation and then an Employee Tribunal, if not resolved. Therefore, it’s important to consider any issues, and take them seriously. This makes employees feel supported. After that, ascertain what the correct procedural response should be once you have considered the issue.

Often a team member will approach you about a sensitive subject with little or no warning. It’s not uncommon for oversharing of personal information as well, and you cannot dismiss it out of hand because it may impact on the individual, their work and the team. Therefore, it’s vital to know how to respond. 

Here are some simple suggestions to keep in mind, which we may forget when we are busy:

1 Listening more than speaking is key. Allow the individual to speak and feel heard when talking. 

2 Make sure you are in an environment and have a mindset where you can give your full attention. Do this away from potential distractions so you can understand and consider what they are saying. 

3 Empathy is key. Attempt to understand what the person is feeling and ask questions for clarification if you don’t feel you’ve fully understood the issue.

4 Ensure the person doesn’t feel judged or dismissed. 

5 When the conversation is ending and before you take any further steps, reflect back and summarise the conversation, to ensure there are no misunderstandings.

Our strap line at Loch Associates Group is ‘People are our business’; they are your business too. A company’s success depends on its team and the effective management of it. Managers must have these difficult conversations to manage effectively. They need to have the skillset to do that, which is why we offer our popular ‘Nip it in the Bud’ training sessions to help managers acquire those skills and give them confidence to have those tough or tricky conversations!

Pam Loch, Solicitor and Managing Director of Loch Associates Group

E: info@lochassociates.co.uk



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