How to Have Difficult Conversations With Employees

For most people, initiating difficult conversations doesn’t come naturally. The discomfort often leads to procrastination and little hope of resolving issues. Avoidance can breed resentment and cause employees to disengage. Knowing how to have difficult conversations with employees is a skill all leaders should cultivate.

Steps to Navigate Difficult Conversations

You can employ several tactics to have effective conversations:

1. Establish a Culture of Trust and Open Communication

Waiting until conflicting situations arise before having difficult conversations is unwise. Building rapport and getting to know your employees is crucial. Be warm and approachable so your direct reports feel comfortable discussing matters with you. This established trust will help during difficult conversations.

2. Dissect the Difficult Situation and Tackle it in Layers

Take a systematic approach when having difficult conversations. Make the topic clear, explain what you perceive is the issue, acknowledge any part you may have played and cover how the issue affected you. Keep things neutral and allow the individual to explain the situation from their point of view, focusing on what happened, their feelings and the impact.

3. Listen Without Judgment or Preconceived Notions

Ask clarifying questions, listen without immediately responding and try repeating what you believe the person is trying to say. These active listening techniques help clarify matters.

4. Provide Examples and Be Specific

During your meeting, give examples and provide details. Doing so offers the individual practical ways to identify behavior patterns and correct them. Stick to the facts and review a specific, current situation that’s affecting the involved parties.

5. Talk Through Solutions and Find the Way Forward

Ask the individual for solutions, and discuss a way forward together. Collaboration improves the likelihood of behavior improvement.

How Training Can Help

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Tough conversations require soft skills. Equip your leaders with training on how to have sensitive and effective discussions with employees. Professional courses help develop active listening, empathy and Emotional Intelligence and assist with follow-up conversations and evaluations.

Employees respond positively to leaders who address matters timeously. With the right tools, your leaders can tackle tough conversations.

Learn More About Having Difficult Conversations With Employees

At The Center for Leadership Studies, we have helped develop over 15 million local and international leaders. Our Situational Leadership® Model and training courses enable your leaders to engage in effective performance feedback, building trust and morale and strengthening the organization.

With decades of experience and an extensive network of 200 learning professionals, we’ll effectively equip your team. Contact us to learn how we will help your organization.