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HR Essay Example: Difficult Conversations in the Workplace

5 pages
1121 words
George Washington University
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Difficult conversations are unavoidable in the workplace. They are different from other conversations since they tag along emotional baggage (Weeks, 2001). As such, most people decide that it is best to keep quiet and forget about the whole ordeal. Diverse conflicts can result in various employees leaving the organization, thereby being at a loss (Lawler, 2014). While working at a restaurant, we had shared out duties and responsibilities. However, my co-worker hated washing the dishes and could leave them in the sink to go and attend to other duties. This always left me with no choice but to clean them to avoid any arguments. However, this went on for long, and I decided that it was time to face my co-worker.

After identifying that we could only solve this issue through a conversation, I started my managing myself. This, as a result, ensured that I calm down the thoughts and emotions, which could clog my judgment. As noted by Edmondson and Smith (2006), this is usually the first step in handling conflict. Consequently, I went on to reflect on spontaneous reaction and reframing to see the things each one of us was missing, which enabled the two of us to view the situation like two mature people in such a way that we could easily identify any possible alternatives out of this situation. After managing myself, I had to manage the conversation. This confrontation was meant to redraft our responsibilities. There was no aim of breaking relationships, or damaging teamwork, which was a co-value in the restaurant. These actions were effective since we both saw the cause of disagreement, maintained our relationship, and built a better ground for trust.

A difficult conversation can involve money, emotions or a relationship at stake. The communication skills I used were poor. They included keeping quiet and doing the dishes while angry since I was not ready to face the situation. As noted by Engels (2007), this is not a method of solving conflicts, but it only suppressed the problem to later on burst out as a worse case. This was because I was afraid of hurting him and losing the good friendship we had.

There are diverse ways of handling different conversations. According to Christensen (n.d.), difficult conversations should be looked into in two ways. These include analyzing the experience and then, what led to such a situation. Consequently, it is essential to determine what impact the situation had on you, and how each one of us contributed to the problem. Additionally, it is important to check on the emotional stability and decide what confronting the person would result into (French & Holden, 2012). Finally, it is proper to decide what addressing the problem will solve, or it is just important to let go. These strategies are essential since they lay a foundation for a learning conversation, which is a well-handled difficult dialogue. This is indispensable since it moves from satisfying self and thinking about the next person. At that, we both shared what we felt was right and the issues to be worked on. Finally, we were able to work together and enhance our teamwork.

Handling a stressful conversation can be a lot of work. As such, there are strategies that I will use the next time I face a similar problem. As noted by Weeks (2001), it is important to become aware of personal weaknesses to people and situations. It is important to understand how vulnerable one is before starting a conversation about factors like hostility. Consequently, conversation management can be divided into three sectors. They include clarity, neutrality, and temperance, which are the foundation of a good conversation. Clarity ensures that the words are delivered as they are supposed to be, without moving in circles (Polito, 2013). Delivering all kinds of bad news, including irresponsibility can be coupled with sadness, anger or anxiety. However, applying clarity eases the burden on the other party.

In such a case of irresponsibility, it is difficult to hold down one's tone. It is hard to have a neutral tone, especially when one is overcome by strong feelings. In effect, the one delivering the message should be calm enough since a neutral tone is the best method of handling stressful conversations. Temperance is the final step. There are different words, which can be applied to a stressful situation. However, using harsh words can render the co-worker to dismiss your words.

In an organization, the setting is still important to encourage open communication. Employees like myself could have discussed that issue a long time ago before it reached a point of stress. Regarding Saunders (2007), it is vital to understand the importance of an open communication climate, and then the employees appreciate that conflict is neither good nor bad, but it is inevitable. The manager should try to speak to the employees repeatedly until they incorporate his or her words in the organization structure (Neeley & Paul, 2011). This would mean that employees would embrace conflicts in the organization and be willing to speak them out. An organization without conflicts cannot encourage innovation and creativity. An environment where employees can speak up their mind can be hard to establish. Nonetheless, when possible, it can provide improved employee relationships, create job satisfaction, and ensure a trustworthy exchange between employees.



Christensen, D. S. (n.d.). Difficult Conversations: How to Address What Matters Most. Retrieved January 15, 2018, from

Engels, J. J. (2007). Delivering Difficult Messages. Journal of Accountancy, Retrieved January 15, 2018, from

French, S. L., & Holden, T. Q. (2012). Positive organizational behavior: A buffer for bad news. Business Communication Quarterly, 75(2), 208-220.

Weeks, H. (2001). Taking the stress out of stressful conversations. Harvard business review, 79(7), 112-120., A. C., & Smith, D. M. (2006). Too hot to handle? How to manage relationship conflict. California management review, 49(1), 6-31. E. E. III, (2014, July 31). Why Are We Losing All Our Good People? Retrieved January 15, 2018, from

Neeley, T., & Paul L. (2011). "Effective Managers Say the Same Thing Twice (or More)." Harvard Business Review 89, no. 5, 3839., J. M. (2013). Effective communication during difficult conversations. The Neurodiagnostic Journal, 53(2), 142-152.

Saunders, D. (2007). Create an open climate for communication. The American salesman. 25-29.


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