Every experienced leader knows that there will come a time when you have to have a difficult conversation with an employee. In some cases, you may need to coach them to overcome a stumbling block of theirs. In others, you may need to solve a dispute between two employees. There are any number of problems that can arise in the workplace, but there is a method you can use to help you have productive conversations.

Step 1: Find out how they’re feeling.

When addressing an issue with an employee, first find out how they are and what might be going on in their life. This is particularly important in situations with declining performance. It is possible that your employee is going through a major life event that would qualify them for some kind of leave assistance. Even if there isn’t an underlying issue, it never hurts to understand where your employees are at mentally.

Step 2: Lay the problem out.

When starting to address the problem, make sure to lay out the issue openly and honestly. Try to avoid accusatory language, and keep your tone serious, but compassionate. Explain how a behavior leads to a particular consequence by pointing to examples. Ask your employee to explain their thoughts about what you are saying. In some situations, they may not even be aware of this impact.

Step 3: Set up next steps.

Before diving into a plan of action to solve this problem, make sure your employee understands their role in the issue and has a desire to improve. Come with some ideas for improvement, but allow them to bring ideas of their own to the table. You may see some unique ways forward that could lead to even better results. Once you know what to do, set up the immediate next steps, and even a few long-term goals that they can strive for.

Step 4: Put the plan into action.

After your employee has the next steps, hold them to the plan and make sure to check in on progress. Help in areas where it’s needed. If something isn’t working, make sure to figure out if there is an alternative option.

Final Thoughts

Going into a difficult conversation is best done when you are calm and not emotional. In many situations, the employee will already be emotional, so there is no need to add more fuel to the fire. You should also have your plans thought out well in advance, and your points written down so you can stay on-track. Also, have a notepad available to take notes on anything that comes up during the conversation.

Difficult conversations can take a toll on anyone, but following these steps will make sure you are prepared for them. By following these steps, you can be sure to have a productive meeting.