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How to Deal With Difficult Conversations at Work

written by: Christina Pomoni•edited by: Donna Cosmato•updated: 9/22/2011

Tough conversations at work can be challenging and uncomfortable, unless they are properly handled. Whether you need to dispute an employee evaluation or resign from your job, you'll find the tips and strategies you need to handle difficult conversations at work in this handy guide.

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    Introduction

    Ideally, business conversations should be productive and rewarding, which leaves you with a feeling of accomplishment. However, things are not always like that. Some business conversations end up in a negative way because they are not effectively handled.

    Hand-Shaking-Isolated There are all sorts of tough conversations at work that can make you anxious, stress you out, or distract you from your work. The way you choose to deal with such conversations is mostly subject to the nature of the conversation, but what always works is talking about what matters the most.

    The following collection gives you tips and strategies for handling difficult conversations at work while promoting a productive dialogue. Successful strategies include, but are not limited to, choosing the appropriate place to have the discussion or a time that the other party feels relaxed and receptive to talk; avoiding criticism and using “and" to emphasize other party’s efforts; setting the tone for a constructive discussion; acknowledging the other party’s point of view; listening actively; using bridging phrases; avoiding direct confrontation and controlling emotions.

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    Learning to Communicate Better With Your Supervisor

    The best way to effectively communicate with your boss is to keep the channels of communication open so that a mutually beneficial relationship is established. Make sure to provide accurate and timely feedback, follow-up on pending issues, have a positive attitude, be respectful and manage your emotional reactions when things are not going as expected. Learn to share with your boss, even non-work related issues, to the extent that it is permitted and do not make assumptions.

    How to Deal with a New Boss

    A new boss is likely to bring fresh ideas to the table and not necessarily be incompetent. Therefore, avoid generalizations and provide all the support you can. Be dependable, help your new boss with the learning process and show respect. In addition, control your emotions and always be positive to establish a win-win working relationship with your new supervisor.

    Dealing With a Bad Boss: Tips and Advice

    You may be under-compensated yet required to devote all of your time to work. You may be given no credit for your hard work and asked to do outrageous tasks outside your job description. You may even be a victim of favoritism or of any type of discrimination or sexual harassment. Regardless of the reasons why your boss is treating you unfairly, consider an exit interview and take a step forward to protect your career.

    How to Ask For a Raise

    Asking for a raise requires a proven record of recent accomplishments, initiatives you’ve launched, and documentation of the excellent results you’ve achieved. Find out what the typical salary is for your position in your field of work and calculate how much you should be earning given your total working experience and the amount of time you’ve been working for your current employer. If you don’t get the raise, it may be because either your pitch is quite high or because the company faces lots of layoffs and cutbacks. So, make sure to explore the company’s potential based on its general financial situation.

    How to Ask for a Job Promotion

    Before asking for a promotion, gather all the documentation of your record of success and include recent reviews and information about company improvements for which you are responsible. During the meeting with your boss, have a positive attitude and explain why you deserve a promotion, what you expect to achieve in the new position, and what steps you are willing to take to succeed. Avoid office gossip and be careful what you post in social networking sites. If you are denied the promotion, consider the reasons offered and, if not satisfied, consider applying to a larger firm.

    How to Ask for a Different Job Title

    Asking for a new job title requires good justification and a well-planned proposal that includes new responsibilities on new projects. Take on new initiatives to increase your contribution to the organizational mission but most importantly, your personal value. Make yourself important to the company to earn recognition from your co-workers and to encourage your boss to direct your career to a job title change.

    How to Deal With a Negative Performance Review

    Even if you feel that you have received an unfair or biased performance review, avoid emotional reactions. Take some time to think clearly without jumping to wrong conclusions that can cost your career. Make sure to read behind the lines in order to understand your supervisor’s point of view. Schedule a meeting with your boss and present facts that build a strong case. If your case is dismissed, consider protesting. If your boss denies any discussion, consider appealing to the Human Resources department.

    Human-Resources How to Apologize for Stupid Mistakes at Work

    When you break a bond of trust at work, you need to repair it immediately in order to save your career and reputation. Recognize your mistake, take all the blame, and apologize in a timely and sincere manner without emphasizing mitigating circumstances to make your mistake seem less stupid. Offer ways to restore things but be also ready to remain invisible in the company for a while. Control your emotions and be patient until the incident is forgotten and you gain credit for your work again.

    What to Do When Wrongly Accused of Stealing at Work

    Being accused of office theft can destroy your career. If you are wrongly accused, prepare a comprehensive and justifiable report stating all the facts including who, what, when and why you are accused of. Deny the crime and explain where you were at the time that the theft took place. Talk to your boss immediately, provide a copy of your statement, and make him or her a professional ally. If the accusation extends beyond your department, schedule a meeting with the Human Resources Department to present your case. Request a meeting with the person who accused you. Request an in-house investigation. Being accused doesn’t mean you are guilty, but you have to clear your name as soon as possible.

    Dealing with Missing Work for Family Emergencies

    A sudden family emergency, which could include a death in the family, a family member needing hospitalization, or a child needing to be picked up from school due to illness, requires you to leave immediately. However, as some employers are suspicious about such excuses, the family emergency should be verified with another family member. In addition, makes sure not to use family emergencies as a fake excuse. Stay in contact with your boss to give him or her some follow-up on the situation and help him or her assess when you will be able to return to your position.

    How to Justify Overtime To Your Boss

    When justifying one-off or temporary overtime, it is important to provide good reasons why you need to work overtime and why the work cannot be completed during normal working hours or be postponed for the next day. Sustained overtime not only requires strong documentation on a regular basis, but you need to convince your boss that it would not lead to any of the suggested overtime ill-effects. The extra money you earn and your potentially improved performance ratings are both adversely affected by declining productivity, higher absenteeism, increased risk of injury and poor-work-balance balance.

    Tips on Giving Feedback to a Difficult Boss

    Giving feedback is a task that requires accuracy and consistency. Whether you are giving feedback on a financial issue, on your boss’s competency to handle particular issues, or on issues related to your position in the company, be well-informed and know what you are talking about. Keep a positive spirit and present the best solutions to improve weak areas.

    Proper Etiquette for Quitting Your Job

    It is especially important to leave your current job on good terms. Demonstrate professionalism and etiquette to make a smooth transition from one job to another but also to maintain good working relationships with former co-workers and supervisors. Make sure to give a proper notice to your current employer and indicate clearly in your resignation letter why you’re leaving the company. Facilitate the exit interview by giving your boss valuable feedback to solve underlying company issues.