How To Have A Difficult Conversation At Work

Workplace conflict is something every employee will find themselves dealing with at some point in their life. A lot of people prefer to avoid conflict if they can.

Business Life
  • Release Date: 19 October 2023
  • Author: Speaker Agency

How To Have A Difficult Conversation At Work

Conversation At Work

Workplace conflict is something every employee will find themselves dealing with at some point in their life. A lot of people prefer to avoid conflict if they can. Employees at work would rather avoid difficult conversations than have to deal with it. This isn't really a surprise, since most people look at conflict negatively. However, avoiding conflict won't necessarily solve the problem.

If you're wondering how to have a difficult conversation at work, then you're not alone. People who avoid conflict can end up making their situation worse. If conflicts are ignored, then issues can escalate, which can in turn breed resentment. Left too far, employees can disengage from work and may even leave for another workplace.

What You Should Know About Having Difficult Conversations At Work

Constructive dialogue in tough situations can help reduce and even eliminate conflict at work. Difficult conversations shouldn't always be avoided, but rather handled delicately. You might want to talk to your manager or the HR about a co-worker who has been behaving with toxicity towards you. There could be someone in the team who is slacking off, or not coming to work at all. You might want to report them to management.

To handle delicate issues like this - think about how you can get the best outcome both for yourself as well as the person you're talking to. Here are some ways you can deal with difficult conversations at work:

Don't Wait 

A difficult topic can become even more challenging to talk about, the more you wait. Over time, you can start getting anxious about the conversation and what might happen. Understanding that providing feedback on a regular basis can actually help the person you're reporting to. As soon as issues arise, address them immediately.

Work On Your Mindset 

It's easier to have difficult conversations at work when you're in the right mentality to talk. Don't work yourself up before you have the conversation. Think of it just like other normal office conversations that you have. Believe that the meeting will go well. Be confident when you go in and get to the point as soon as you can. When you approach difficult conversations with a positive energy, you're better able to relay your thoughts effectively.

Practice Difficult Conversations Regularly 

Have difficult conversations at work at least once every week. When you have difficult conversations with management, you put them in a place where they need to actively address uncomfortable issues. When it comes to issues like pay inequality and diversity at work, having difficult conversations about these topics can lead to real changes.

Know What You're Going To Say 

Navigating tough talks in the workplace isn't easy. That's why preparing ahead of time can be helpful. Don't create a script to memorize. Instead, jot down what the important points of your talk are. Write down three thoughts that you wish to express. That way, when you're actually having the difficult conversation, you'll be able to get to the point immediately. This reduces the chances of the conversation going in tangential directions.

Control How You Feel 

Difficult conversations at work can seem challenging and they are. You'll need to know how to properly manage your emotions, so you can express yourself using an even tone. This becomes even more important when you're talking to someone you work with regularly. If your emotions do start to take over, then remind yourself that if you're in control you can better communicate your thoughts.

Find A Solution 

The goal behind having a difficult conversation at work is to find a solution to the problem. Whether you're having issues with colleagues or need to report something else, walk away from the talk knowing what will be done about your problem. Talk about the solution together and find something that works well for all parties. 

This is how you can handle difficult conversations at work

Find A Solution

Why Difficult Conversations At Work Matter

Managing workplace conflict is important. Having difficult conversations at work is a part of managing workplace conflict. Here are useful tips for handling challenging discussions at work:

1. Set Your Talking Points 

For tricky conversations, talking one on one can be perfect. You'll need to know what your talking points are so you can get to the point. Consider setting your talking points ahead of time, giving the other party time to assess what you want to talk about. Send the other person advance notice on what you would like to talk to them about.

2. Focusing On Facts 

At the meeting, don't discuss how events made you feel. Focus on the facts of the matter. Objectively present your facts. Better yet, write down the facts so you can better remember them. Think about what you want the desired outcome to be as well.

It's not unusual to feel emotional when talking about difficult topics, but the key is to control those emotions and focus on communicating effectively.

3. Aim To Be Understood 

Your goal shouldn't be to convince the other person to agree with all of your points. Instead, inculcate a sense of understanding. Problems that are nothing more than misunderstandings can easily be solved this way. Be empathetic and let the other person have their space to share their opinion. Listen to the other person attentively and don't interrupt them.

4. Speak In An Environment That's Reliable 

Employees need to trust that they can cone forward with their issues without being reprimanded or penalized for it. This can be done by creating an environment at work where employees feel they can come to management with difficult topics. Maintain one on one conversations with employees and encourage HR to do the same. You can even state directly in front of other employees that you welcome difficult conversations and that your employees can talk to you about challenging topics anytime. Have difficult conversations with employees using these tips. 

Work On Your Mindset


Having difficult conversations at work shouldn't feel scary. Sometimes, these kinds of conversations are necessary for the sake of the business. This guide shows you how you can have difficult conversations at work.

Consider getting in touch with Speaker Agency to get professional tips on dealing with challenging conversations at work. Book a seminar for your employees or learn more about conversations at the workplace from celebrated speakers.

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