What is the cost of avoiding a difficult or stressful conversation? At the workplace, avoiding such conversations can lead to absenteeism, low morale, and—in some circumstances—costly litigation. Avoiding difficult conversations can also indulge the worst behaviors in uncooperative colleagues, partners, and employees: gossip, infighting, and retaliation that distract the organization from its purpose and goals. Such avoidance of conflict can sap motivation and push talented employees out the door. Managers need to be familiar with processes for approaching difficult conversations, and how to learn from previous experiences to improve this important skill.
As your Learning Resources have reflected (Edmondson & Smith, 2006; Weeks, 2001), engaging in difficult conversations can be one of the more difficult responsibilities of a manager. Difficult conversations involving money, performance, and expectations are inevitable in the workplace, so managers need to know how to approach them effectively whether they are delivering negative feedback and bad news, de-escalating unhealthy conflict between colleagues, or working through an organizational crisis