If you’ve been working remotely then having a difficult conversation has probably been something that you have wanted to avoid if possible.  However, problems that are not dealt with rarely go away and usually become more acute with time. 

An important part of effective people management is learning how best to approach and hold difficult conversations with employees, especially conversations that carry an element of risk. Here are some tips on how to hold them effectively.

  • Be clear on the outcomes

If you have identified a problem and decided that a conversation needs to happen, before you go any further, stop and think about the outcomes you want from the conversation. For example, if the problem concerns an employee’s poor performance should you be holding a capability meeting with a performance plan or is it merely a pep talk that is needed to boost productivity. Be sure to agree an action plan with the employee. Following the call document a summary of the meeting and send it to them to avoid misunderstanding and to refer back to if needed. 

  • Schedule a specific time for a meeting. 

In addition to planning for the meeting schedule a call or even better a video conference. Impromptu calls can make the employee feel defensive or confused if they are not expecting the discussion. So set the time and be clear on how you will cover the issue. You should avoid at all costs sending your concerns in an email as it is impersonal and open to interpretation which can complicate the situation further. Planning a time to talk also allows you enough time to prepare and shows you are committed to finding a solution.

  • Listen to the employee

The objective of these meetings should be to work with the employee to address the issue and get their performance/behaviour back to expected levels. So have some open-ended questions to hand and be prepared to really listen to what the employee has to say. This will show that you value their input and are seeking to find a resolution with them.

  • Stay in regular contact with your employees.

Good communication can stop problems from arising in the first place. If you are in regular contact with your remote employees, you can reduce the chances of miscommunication and stop small issues from becoming serious ones. Scheduling time in your diary for catch up calls may not seem a priority but can really help to keep people engaged and catch issues before they become serious problems.

  • Get help from Experts

At Optima HR we have a lot of experience in supporting managers through difficult situations. If you feel as though you would benefit from additional support we can help.

If you would like any help with this or any other HR topic please contact Optima HR www.optimahr.co.uk for your FREE 30-minute HR consultation.