Exclusive B21 Survey: Most Managers Aren't Trained to Conduct Difficult Conversations

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A new survey from Business 21 Publishing shows that even though productivity, morale and retention decrease when managers avoid difficult conversations, most companies aren't doing anything about it.

A new survey from Business 21 Publishing shows that most companies recognize that productivity, morale and retention decrease when managers avoid difficult conversations. However, in a second survey they admit that their organizations aren't doing anything about it. In fact, less than one company in 10 says it effectively trains its managers to conduct difficult conversations.

This means that at thousands of companies across America everybody is talking ABOUT, but no one is talking directly TO:

  • the customer service rep whose offensive body odor is seriously hurting morale and productivity in his work group
  • the middle-aged salesman who's "friendly" water-cooler conversations with young women are making them extremely uncomfortable
  • the payroll clerk who comes to work in dirty, unkempt clothing
  • the beloved but aging "legacy" employee whose performance has slipped dramatically and needs to be laid off
  • the manager who has offensive breath -- to the point where his direct reports dread going into his office to convey important information
  • the shy but brilliant IT guy who practices avoidance -- to the point where colleagues who depend on him are continually blindsided when he fails to communicate
  • the newly promoted manager who thinks she's doing a great job but who has alienated every person she's crossed paths with
  • the receptionist who has begun wearing nose and eyebrow rings
  • the aging loading dock worker who refuses to admit he can no longer handle the physical demands of the job

and last but not least

  • the manager who doesn't have the stomach (or is it just the skills?) to hold difficult conversations with his or her subordinates!

That last item is perhaps the most critical. Managers who are afraid to confront difficult issues have no business being managers, and no one knows that better than the employees who suffer from their inaction. Fact is, employees have contempt for bosses who can't handle fundamental management tasks like dealing with conflict, and there's no bigger morale-deflater than having to work for one.

No one should have to. Especially since teaching managers to handle difficult conversations is relatively easy. With the right attitude, a little coaching and some helpful language, most managers can very quickly learn to conduct difficult conversations successfully. And the payoff is huge.

Communications skills trainer Judy Ringer offers some suggested language to jump start difficult conversations:

  • "I have something I’d like to discuss with you that I think will help us work together more effectively. "
  • "I’d like to talk about ____________ with you, but first I’d like to get your point of view."
  • "I need your help with what just happened. Do you have a few minutes to talk?
  • "I need your help with something. Can we talk about it (soon)?" If they say, "Sure, let me get back to you," follow up with them.
  • "I think we have different perceptions about _____________________. I’d like to hear your thinking on this."

ARTICLE: To read Judy Ringer's entire article, go to http://hodu.com/checklist.shtml

FULL SURVEY RESULTS: Click here to view the full survey results on conducting difficult conversations.

UPCOMING AUDIO CONFERENCE: Learn more about handling difficult conversations by attending an audio conference Business 21 Publishing will conduct on August 8, 2006 entitled "Five Keys to Handling Difficult Conversations with Employees."


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Stephen Meyer
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