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Procrastination – we’ve all done it. Whether it’s postponing a dentist appointment or making excuses to neglect a household chore, trying to avoid an unpleasant task is hardly an unusual shortcoming.

One of the most common triggers for procrastination is ‘the difficult conversation’. In the workplace, this uncomfortable prospect can take many different forms, from asking for a pay rise to addressing an employee’s mistake. But if you’re a manager or leader of any kind, difficult conversations simply can’t be avoided.

Too many managers view tricky conversations as optional; a last resort that should only be employed once a situation has severely escalated. Many hide their heads in the sand and hope the problem will go away on its own.

But if you are in charge of providing feedback to people you supervise, it’s actually a requirement of your job to give that feedback, even if it’s critical. Similarly, when a team member’s behaviour or poor performance is having a negative impact on their colleagues, you owe it to the rest of your staff to speak up.

If you find yourself putting off that difficult conversation and want to change your approach in 2020, just remember this: Direct and honest communication is not only a courtesy to all your employees, it’s also a core function of being a manager.

This means finding a way to be comfortable with imparting news or assessments that someone doesn’t want to hear. Few people enjoy criticising others and no one expects you to look forward to the task. But deciding to view the occasional difficult conversation as a non-negotiable part of your job – much like signing annual leave forms promptly, or leading meetings in an effective way – can bring some useful perspective.

As with any task, the best way to feel confident heading in is to equip yourself with the skills needed to understand, pre-empt and resolve performance or behavioural issues.

Originally posted on Linkedin – January 2020

Mark Fryer

15th January 2020