Tough Conversations- Get that Elephant out of the Room!


In Human Resources, we often see that tough conversations are avoided. Today, CEPHR, LLC is providing some HR Consulting tips to take that elephant right out of the room and we’re highlighting the importance of tough conversations. Let's jump right in.......

At the beginning of any new relationship and as the relationship moves along, we advise our clients that if something is ever not working for them, we want to talk about it. We don’t shy away from tough conversations and here’s why you shouldn’t either:

Growth comes from challenges- and sometimes, yes, even from conflict. Provided you’re managing the conversation respectfully and from a place of understanding and assuming positive intent, the conversation usually isn’t as scary as you may think. You also need to bear in mind the organization’s and stakeholders’ best interests and keep those central to the conversation. Remember: Diversity comes from different approaches, thoughts, experiences, and backgrounds.

Leadership involves making tough decisions and often being an additional buffer for your team- possibly even having another tough conversation on their behalf. Employees deserve the benefit of you being transparent with them and supporting them. This will involve more than one tough conversation over the course of your career.

Just because you disagree, doesn’t mean that some healthy conflict doesn’t exist. Though tough conversations in the workplace can sometimes become intense, there should never be a situation where there is yelling or other unprofessional behavior. Take the emotion out of it, wherever possible. Emotionally-charged conversations are rarely resolved nor effective. It does happen, but it’s not all that common. Good can come from even tough conversations, and I’ve seen it happen. For example, I’ve had a couple of roles over the years where I was probably the third or fourth HR Business Partner to support a business group, causing faith in the structure to be shaken long before I stepped onto the scene. Because building and fostering relationships and culture are important for and to me, I knew this was something I’d have to overcome. And I have always been able to. Trust must also be at the center, and this can be difficult to establish, especially in situations like the one I just described. It begins with listening.

Honesty and integrity must also be part of the equation. It can’t be about you or your ego or agenda. Don’t lose sight of this because it’s the quickest way to lose trust and the relationship. Then you are right back to square one. In my situations, if I would’ve lost sight of that, it would’ve meant that these teams would’ve reverted back to their thinking that HR was broken and not of value because there was no consistency.

That being said, be consistent. Clients and any relationship are cultivated through consistency as well. Think of the Parent/Child relationship. Children need their Parents to show up for them and to be there consistently to teach them valuable life lessons. Writing out your Talking Points ahead of time can help you stay focused and on-task, particularly if you anticipate a potentially emotionally-charged conversation.

As we wrap up, here are some questions and considerations as you move through tough conversations:

· What’s at stake? What do your stakeholders want/expect?

· What are their pain points? What solutions can you provide?

· What are the goals of the team and organization? How does it relate to the overall strategy of the organization?

· Are you approaching the discussion with an open mind?

· What’s the worse that could happen? How will you recover from the worst-case scenario?

For some quick tips, check out this short HR Consulting video: Tough Conversations. If you have questions or want to chat, reach out!


(412) 990-1361

4607 Library Road
Suite 220, #497

Bethel Park, PA 15102

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