Do you get jitters when a colleague or manager asks to have a word with you?  You may likely think that something is wrong, which can lead to a challenging conversation. Arguments or heated conversations can easily happen when two people have opposing opinions and views on a subject. 

There are various reasons why a conversation might be difficult. Firstly, you don’t know what to expect. Or, you’re unsure of the outcome. There may be a lot of questions running through your head, which can get overwhelming. Emotions can play a big part during these conversations. 

On the other hand, you or the other person may experience fear, anxiety, and defensiveness when talking about unpleasant things. These dialogues are also hard because they can feel like you don’t have control. But tough conversations can be managed with the right tools and techniques. Read this article to find out how to manage challenging conversations in the workplace.

Types of Challenging Conversations in the Hospitality Industry

Why Is It Important to Have Tough Conversations?

7 Best Practices for Having a Challenging Conversation in the Workplace 


Types of Challenging Conversations in the Hospitality Industry

Challenging conversations happen regularly in the hospitality industry, and are a key leadership skill to master. As an HR manager or hospitality business owner,  you’ll be expected to initiate or even lead these conversations. These can range from speaking with an employee who disregards company policies or underperforms. Sometimes there is a misalignment between the company’s brand and the employee’s actions or behaviour, and instances where a team member is doing less work compared to the rest of their team. Even though these conversations are important, discussing them without tact can lead to resentment, and a tense work atmosphere. 

There may be times where your employees are scared to bring up workplace concerns with you. Remember that building trust with your team takes time, and micromanaging doesn’t help. Employees may highlight the unrealistic expectations other managers have of them, as well as their views on the outcome of their performance review. Asking for a raise is also something that employees will come to you with. 


→🙂 Do you want to have a better working relationship with your team?  Check out this article to learn how to build trustworthy relationships and keep employees engaged!


Why Is It Important to Have Tough Conversations? 

Communication is the very essence of the hotel industry, and the way we handle these conversations will determine team morale and company culture.  Some benefits of gracefully handling a complicated conversation are: 

You Demonstrate That You Value The Person

Despite the outright convenience and cold efficiency that modern technology offers, an email or a zoom meeting cannot possibly replace the warmth that face-to-face encounters and one-on-one meetings bring.  You are telling the other person, by your gesture of personally taking the time to show up and engage in a conversation, that they matter and that you care. 

They Can Help the Other Person Realise What Needs to Be Improved

Tough conversations often happen because of differences in viewpoints or standards. When this is pointed out to someone in a thoughtful and constructive manner, they may find it easier to understand how their performance or behaviour needs to be improved.  

It Is Easier to Mutually Think of a Solution That Benefits Both Sides

It is said that two heads are better than one. Even more so if they have complementing or even conflicting views. In this case, openness and willingness are the key ingredients to finding common ground and a solution that benefits both sides. Even just demonstrating positive body language can give your employee or colleague a sense of calm, and allow them to share their ideas or thoughts with you. 

They Build a Better Working Relationship

Even if the conversation does not end in complete agreement, the way it is conducted can result in an attitude of cooperation and a harmonious work atmosphere. Always bear this in mind. 

You and Your Team Can Work Towards Company Goals  

Two-way communication between management and staff is important, not only for management to keep up-to-date with the issues and developments in the company but also for the staff to be conscious and to understand the company’s vision, brand, and goals. Your words and behaviour can reinforce a feeling of loyalty and belonging. 


7 Best Practices for Having a Challenging Conversation in the Workplace 

Now that importance of having these conversations in the workplace is clear, here are 7 tips to make sure the dialogues go as smoothly as possible: 

 1. Prepare in Advance 

It’s a good idea to know what you want to say beforehand, and have a clear objective for the conversation. Get your facts ready, and practice the words you will use, as well as the tone of your voice if needed. You can even role-play the scenario with another person to give you a better idea of how the conversation might go.

2. Create a Safe Space for the Conversation

Regardless of the conversation's goal, all parties must feel safe to open up and express their thoughts. Choose a neutral space, so that the person you are speaking with does not feel intimidated by your role or title. A dedicated, private space is also recommended when discussing sensitive issues. Confidentiality should always be guaranteed, no matter how trivial the topic is. 

3. Remember to Listen

A conversation involves both talking and listening. Sometimes, people tend to just focus on what they want to say, and forget to listen. Don’t make assumptions no matter what you’ve heard or seen. Give the other person a chance to talk, and try to see things from their perspective. This will allow you to create a better relationship with your team.(1)

4. Have a Third Person Present 

Depending on the topic that needs to be brought up, having a third person present might be necessary during the meeting. For example, in cases where disciplinary actions have to be enforced, you may find it useful to have a witness to the conversation. A member of the legal or HR team may be able to help you in this case.  

5. Be Sure Everything Was Clear 

When concluding the conversation, it’s imperative to make sure everybody understood what was discussed. If there are any questions or doubts, clarify them immediately. It would be good to recap the key points of the conversation or make a written summary. 

6. Agree on the Next Actions 

The primary goal of having these conversations is to solve a problem, change behaviour or find a solution together. Now is the time to state what you hope to achieve, and make sure the corresponding actions are implemented so the same problems don’t reoccur. Discuss a timeframe if need be. 

7. Follow-up

Check back on the situation after a reasonable time has passed to see if things have changed for the better. Are there improvements or positive changes since you last spoke to the person? If everything is good and well, then you can move on and work in harmony. If there is no improvement, you may need to try a different approach.  

Major problems and difficulties can be avoided by the simple act of having a thoughtful and meaningful conversation. Remember, as the famous saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is a pound of cure.” The sooner you have these challenging conversations, the better.

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