Do you need to have a difficult conversation?

Last week, I completed a TAFE Statement in HR Mentor, Difficult Conversations in the Workplace. It was a great reminder that difficult conversations are sometimes unavoidable in business but with the right approach and planning, they can achieve outcomes that are not necessarily detrimental to your practice.

What are some examples of difficult conversations we might have in allied health private practice, particularly, if we employee staff? You might be able to think of some yourself - these conversations may be regarding:

  • Circumstances where the exact outcome is unknown – for example, an upcoming restructure, change to staffing or services the practice offers
  • Generational differences – for example, potential conflict in the workplace due to personality traits and approach to work tasks
  • Job roles – for example, expectations of how a job is to be completed
  • Health issues – for example, an employee suffering mental health issues or other chronic illness
  • Attendance issues – for example, personal leave frequently on a Monday

You can probably see that issues like those above need to be addressed by having a conversation – and planning for this sooner rather than later is so important.

Many of us feel uncomfortable about the idea of having a difficult conversation and avoid it as we don’t want to hurt the other person's feelings, or we feel we don’t have time to address the issue, or that there would be no benefit as nothing will change. We might also fear that the person will quit! This is especially difficult if they are meeting the clinical requirements of the job and are excellent in their clinical skills with a large caseload and you fear losing that in your busy practice.

Fortunately, there are ways to minimise the need and impact of difficult conversations in the workplace - let's have a look at some options you may be able to build into your practice - maybe you are doing some of these already, in which case, well done!

  • Clearly set workplace standards and expectations up front (e.g., Code of Conduct, and workplace policies & procedures)
  • Schedule regular informal conversations (they don’t need to be negative – it could be “hey, I noticed you really put in extra effort for that task this week, that was great”, or, "I noticed you may be having difficulty there a way we can fix that?")
  • Make sure the “team goals” are clear and posted up in the practice tea room or other common area to remove the subjectivity from the performance. The expectations are for everyone in the practice, not just one person.

If you decide that a conversation is needed, you need to then work out if you are the best person to have the conversation, and start planning for it!

Next week, I will step you through how to PLAN and PREPARE for a difficult conversation.

Planning, Staffing, Culture

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