It’s Tuesday morning. You know you need to have a conversation with a co-worker who missed a deadline on a project the two of you are working on. However, you’re hesitant to bring it up – you know she will get defensive and come up with a bucket full of excuses. You think about calling in sick because the thought of confronting her makes you queasy; you just don’t want to deal with it. Oh – and the thought of bringing it up to your manager to be labeled “the whiner”? Not today.
This scenario is common. Employees avoid difficult conversations for the same reason their managers do – because they are uncomfortable. To have this type of tough conversation, you have to be open and vulnerable, two things that are not easy for most. Many people never had a family dynamic that taught them how to have conversations about uncomfortable topics, nor taken a class or read a book on how to effectively navigate the waters of awkward situations. Having the conversation you would like to avoid is one of the most difficult and courageous things you can do.
What we do here at Glassdoor
At Glassdoor, I developed and teach a two-hour workshop called “Communication: The Why, The What and The How.” The workshop shares the best golden nuggets I have found during my career about tackling uncomfortable situations head-on to encourage effective communication practices within the entire organization. My hope is to help managers and employees have those difficult conversations.
The single most important thing you can do to promote healthy communication is to model it from the top down. It is important to have a common language and a communication framework throughout your organization about how to have these discussions. If every employee has to figure out these challenges alone, there is plenty of room for error.
It is also important for HR departments and managers to be viewed as trusted confidants in these difficult scenarios. All employees should be able to discuss their problems and concerns with their superiors. I call this “holding a sacred space”, aka appreciating how much courage it takes for an employee to come forward and want to discuss and solve a problem. It is critical for everyone to respect both the parties involved and the delicacy of the situation.
Here are tips for implementing effective communication practices at your organization:
- Encourage honest communication in everything you do.Whether it’s in a one-on-one with your superior, a team meeting with 20 people or an all-company huddle, feedback and transparent communication matters – and not just in difficult conversations, but in positive and easy ones as well. Businesses can’t survive unless all team members are receptive to hearing feedback, learning and growing.
At Glassdoor, our teams attend leadership trainings. At these two-day sessions, teams provide honest feedback to their peers, mentors and superiors. In some situations, employees are responsible for providing their managers or directors with the good, the bad and the ugly about their management styles and personality types. Instead of grimacing at this honest feedback, managers at Glassdoor are taught to embrace the opportunity to improve and employees are taught to share their feedback in a polite and constructive way. Encouraging this transparency is a surefire way to improve the communication practices at your organization.
- Train your leadership teams to enforce from the top-down.Ultimately, it’s up to your leadership to enforce these communication practices. You can’t rely on employees to begin the process of implementing effective communication. While your employees will be responsible for the day-to-day implementation, it’s up to team leads, managers and directors to get the ball rolling.
Hold meetings with members of your leadership teams to get them on the same page. Discuss how critical these effective communication practices are, and explain how they can improve the overall flow of your organization. Showing key players the benefit of getting their teams on board will help them sell the practices to the rest of your employees.
- Hold workshops.Workshops like ours – “Communication: The Why, The What and The How” – work well to show employees how to implement effective communication practices and tackle awkward moments with their peers, subordinates and superiors. It’s our responsibility as HR managers to ensure our employees have everything they need at their fingertips to navigate difficult conversations. During these workshop sessions, really listen to your employees’ concerns so you can better help them and build the next workshop session around what they need to succeed.
During these workshops, remind your employees that they can always come to you for advice on handling a sticky situation or intervention in a personnel matter. Everyone likes knowing they have someone they can trust just a few feet away.
Lastly, we all have to remain humble and remember that every chance to have a conversation with another human being is a chance to learn something new, either about the content that is being discussed or the way we communicate that content. Healthy communication is equal parts art and science.