How To Carry Out An Uncomfortable Conversation

Ever have a team member under perform? Or maybe they were found to be lacking in character.

These are the times that call for uncomfortable conversations.

One of the toughest tasks we have as leaders is to carry out uncomfortable conversations. Usually the difficult conversation results in one or both parties leaving with hurt feelings.

Either you come off as too gruff or not stern enough. The feeling of unfinished business is left hanging in the air.

When we carry out an uncomfortable conversation, it’s best to have a plan or technique in place.

A great technique for having having a difficult conversation is the sandwich method. And no, it’s not give them a sandwich while breaking the bad news.

The sandwich method is carried out by using different layers for the conversation.

  • Begin by praising or uplifting the person you’re talking to: Let them know that you value them and that you see their potential. They’re part of the team and you like them.This helps to break the ice. You’re also starting off on the right foot by giving them a confidence boost.
  • You then move into the difficult conversation: Break the news to your employee after you’ve given a hearty amount of praise. They’re warmed up and know that you care. At this point, they’re much more receptive to hearing any bad news that may need to be told. Be gentle but be firm. Let them know it’s a serious situation and that things need to change.
  • End with more praise: Don’t leave the conversation on a negative note. Swoop in and give the employee another heaping of praise. Give them encouragement, letting them know that you have faith things will improve.

Can you see why this is called the sandwich method?

Consider the praise the top and bottom layers of the bread. They hold everything together. Without them, the meat of the sandwich would be all over the place.

The bad news, or difficult conversation, is the meat. It’s what the whole thing is about. Sandwiched between two pieces of bread, it’s safe and easier to digest.

While this won’t work every time you need to have a difficult conversation, it definitely helps and gives you a great starting point.

Question: What other techniques do you use when you need to have an uncomfortable conversation? Please share them in the comment section below.

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