How do you tackle those difficult conversations with staff?

11 June 2018

Excuse me, there's a problem." "What's happened?" "Where do you want to start?" Take your pick.

  • Simon's been posting derogatory comments about you on a social networking site.
  • Mary failed to get the expected promotion and is very upset.
  • Phil is waiting to complain about a colleague making sexist comments in the canteen.

Hopefully not a typical Monday morning, but we can all be ambushed by difficult line management issues. The first question many managers ask themselves is 'is it my responsibility to sort it out?'

If the answer is 'yes' there can still be a real reluctance to get caught up in very emotional or difficult performance and conduct issues. Get it wrong and the employee may go absent, work less effectively or you may get landed with a grievance. Get it right and you can improve levels of performance, attendance and employee engagement.

Difficult workplace conversations cover a whole manner of issues such as:

  • Punctuality
  • Attendance
  • Discipline
  • Ill health
  • Personal hygiene

According to Acas:

“The solution is often that we just hope that things sort themselves out but experience tells us that is no solution, at best it simply delays the inevitable and at worst it can be delayed to the point that formal discussions have to take place.

So why do we put these conversations off? It can't be just because they are uncomfortable, it is usually because line managers are concerned about re-percussions and how they look but these, as powerful as they are as reasons, shouldn't ever stop those conversations from happening.”


Acas has comprehensive guidance which can help to deal with these inevitable situations.