Courageous Conversations

Courage Conversations

By Nicole Griffiths and Nichola Gold

Courageous Conversations

Do any of these sound familiar?

  • An employee starting to arrive later and later to work until all of a sudden it’s the norm.
  • One person in the team seems to need a lot of “carrying” and everyone is starting to become demotivated and wondering why they bother.
  • The new team member thinks that crop tops and ripped jeans are appropriate attire at the office.
  • After work drinks on a Friday seem to be starting earlier each week.
  • Time spent on social media seems to be creeping into work time.

Addressing these issues with staff can be a daunting and scary prospect for many managers or business owners, but from our experience ignoring the problem certainly won’t make it go away.  Having an early conversation and nipping things in the bud when they first come to light will hopefully avoid the even scarier conversation you may need to have down the track if you leave it!

The reality of leaving these problems unresolved is the festering, resentment, stress and angst from the rest of the team who can see that there is a problem that is being ignored.  Quite quickly this can lead to a loss of respect for management and also disengagement with the business because they don’t feel that they are respected.

In terms of cost to the business, it’s two-fold.  The direct impact of the negative behaviour of the individual (in terms of lost time, reputation, productivity etc.) is the obvious cost.  However, the flow on effect to the rest of the team means additional damage to overall staff morale, motivation and their belief in the business.

So where to from here?

Pull those big pants up and get on with it!  Whether it’s a performance issue or employees feuding, there comes a time when leaders must break the silence. Timely, courageous conversations are the way to go.  They don’t need to be confrontational.  Handling the difficult conversation requires skill, empathy and some planning, but ultimately, it requires the courage to go ahead and do it. The more you get into the habit of facing these issues squarely, the more adept you will become at it.

These steps may help you hold courageous conversations when your people need professional feedback.

Before the Meeting

Understand why you are having the conversation. The clearer you are about why your feedback is helpful, the easier it will be to say what needs to be said.  Know your objective, why are you having this conversation, and what do you hope to achieve?

For example, do you want:

  • a change in behaviour
  • agreement on a particular issue
  • an apology
  • some sort of restorative action
  • a resubmission of work

Have clear answers to the following questions before you go into the meeting.   Be clear about what the successful outcome looks like.

  • “What exactly is the behaviour that is causing the problem?”
  • “What is the impact that the behaviour is having on you, the team or the organisation?”

Plan but don’t script.  Your strategy for the conversation should be flexible and contain a repertoire of possible responses. Your language should be simple, clear, direct, and neutral.

During the Meeting

  • Don’t dive right into the feedback – give the person a chance to brace for potentially embarrassing feedback. Tell the employee that you need to provide feedback that is difficult to share.
  • If you’re uncomfortable with your role in the conversation, you might say that, too. Most people are as uncomfortable providing feedback about an individual’s personal dress or habits, as the person receiving the feedback.
  • Be honest. Keep the feedback straightforward and simple.  Don’t beat around the bush.
  • Look for the positive. Sometimes, seemingly bad behaviour could be an honest mistake or a misguided attempt to do good. Many mistakes start out as good ideas or good intentions. If you can frame a criticism in this way, it makes it more likely the employee can ‘own’ the problem and be open to and positive about making changes.
  • Tell the person the impact that changing his or her behaviour will have from a positive perspective. Tell the employee how choosing to do nothing will affect their career and job.
  • Always end the meeting on a positive note. Your employee should leave thinking they can do better. You want them to feel accountable and committed to meeting their goals.

We urge you to care enough to hold the courageous conversation. A difficult conversation can make the difference between success and failure for a valued employee and ultimately your business.


Nicole Griffiths and Nichola Gold are Spice HR – helping you manage your people and their performance.

Knowing that people are anything but bland, Spice HR are here to help unlock the true “spiciness” of people – the key ingredient to NZ business. Whether it be by introducing employee handbooks, welcome and on-boarding, staff engagement surveys, performance management, health and safety, training and development, reward and recognition or wellness programmes, they tailor their services to suit your needs.

They offer a real and light-hearted solution to the harder side of people management by adding a fresh mix of ideas to spice things up. They get to the heart of the matter and resolve it, all the while making HR fun! When you need to go on a people flavour discovery, give them a call or visit www.spicehr.co.nz to start the journey.

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