Learning To Manage Difficult Conversations

The best way to deal with people problems in the workplace is for the line manager to tackle them early and effectively nip the problem in the bud. Yet many managers feel anxious when it comes to having these conversations with the “difficult” people they manage.

Effectively managing conflict in the work place is something that is highly desirable for both the commercial and the mental well-being of any organisation. Where such issues are not resolved they can quickly lead to larger problems and ultimately talent attraction and retention figures can tumble.

Effective conflict management relies on the positive intervention and careful supervision of line managers. Unfortunately, too many managers find themselves promoted because they were good at their job. Problems then arise because in their new role they are no longer doing ‘the job’ but are managing a team of people.

Newly promoted line managers often admit that they lack both the skills and the confidence to effectively manage and resolve workplace conflict. So are we setting our new managers up to fail by not adequately training them in this important skill?

Senior managers and HR managers often believe that their first line managers are not tackling conflict situations because they don’t see the problem. Our experience in working with newly promoted managers tells a different story. It is not a lack of identifying the issue that is the problem, rather it is a lack of skills and confidence that holds newly promoted managers back from managing conflict and having difficult conversations with their team. Without the right training, the manager either passes the problem as quickly as possible to HR, avoids it until it becomes critical, or deals with the problem person in an overly aggressive way.

However, learning how to deal with people problems is not as straightforward as learning a technical skill. This type of soft-skills training often necessitates a quantum change in the manager’s behaviour, a real shift in their mind-set and in their approach to managing people. As such, online or other remote methods of learning are not effective.

What is required is tutor led training and coaching, where skill development sessions form a core part of the training programme. Such training will not just make your new managers better at their jobs, but will also help your organisation as a whole by contributing to employee well-being, performance and engagement.

Spearhead can provide Positive Performance Management training and managing conflict training.