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There’s no denying it has been a heavy year. But times of high stress and emotion are not unique to 2020. In these instances, you may notice a change in morale among your teams.  

You may find that current events worldwide spark a need to address them within your organization. Your ability to navigate abnormal circumstances and crises, big or small, is contingent on your ability to have difficult conversations with employees that build trust and calm fears.

Maybe you are dealing with unexpected changes to your service methods, addressing how current events will influence policy/institutional changes, or comforting a team member through a tough time. Difficult situations breed difficult conversations. It’s up to you as a leader to actively create a supportive culture so that your team feels cared for personally and professionally.

difficult conversations at work

Show that you care through meaningful conversations.

Now is the time to learn how to prepare for and engage in difficult conversations the right way. To start, take inventory of your culture. Do employees feel encouraged to share their feelings? Have you created opportunities for open and honest communication? What have you done to reassure your organization that you care?

When you care – really care – you help solidify the expectation of genuine interactions and build trust within your teams! Your behaviors should model your example of real compassion and genuine care – fueled first and foremost by conversation.

Here are a few tips to help you navigate difficult conversations so that your organization can learn and grow from them.

WELCOME IT: Reassure your organization that you are open to discussing sensitive topics and are willing to engage in these conversations respectfully. This above all, goes the furthest to help create a nurturing and positive environment. Acknowledge that difficult conversations are inevitable and pledge to address them with grace, especially in times of uncertainty. Communicate your commitment to equality, compassion, unity, and accountability every chance you can.

INITIATE IT: Anticipate these conversations, then create an opportunity for dialogue. Demonstrate genuine care by connecting with your entire team – either by implementing semi-regular check ins, conducting open forums, or making personal phone calls to your team if dispersed. Proactive and authentic effort eliminates communication gaps that occur when employees feel hesitant to bring up tough topics or share the state of their well-being with their leaders.

ACT ON IT: Keep your conversations constructive rather than destructive. Ask yourself, as well as the other person/people involved, “Where do we go from here?” It’s easy for these conversations to become heavy and negative without perspective. Consider what actions from both parties can be taken to better address these issues in the future so that every conversation serves a purpose and highlights ways your organization can serve as an influencer of change.

Your willingness to tackle tough conversations will define your service culture. How you use them to inspire action, growth, and trust will allow it to THRIVE. Implement a process for how to have difficult conversations with your team today and reap the benefits of a well-intentioned culture of service forever.

Check out a few examples of how to have difficult conversations with these articles from our blog:

Want to BE MORE EFFECTIVE? Follow us on the journey:
ABOUT MIKE DONNELLY: With over 20 years of Disney leadership experience, Mike Donnelly, Chief Experience Officer (CEO) of Donnelly Effect shares his insights on Talent Selection and HiringEmployee OnboardingCustomer ExperienceService Culture and Leadership-among others. Donnelly Effect is home of the exclusive "World-Class Workshop" series and offers consulting services and keynote addresses to audiences of all sizes and industries. Since 2007, Mike Donnelly has been a contracted Disney Institute Facilitator, delivering Disney customer service training to audiences across the United States. 


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