Sometimes this blog evokes some interesting commentary. Recently, I´ve heard from readers who want to share what I´ve said with their bosses but do so anonymously. That got me thinking about how supervisors and their staffs conduct difficult conversations. One reader exclaimed that she had put a posting about over-involved bosses on her supervisor´s desk. Another pleaded with me to talk to his boss [sorry, folks, you need to do the talking . . . ]. But the point is this-it´s not easy to broach sensitive topics with the people we work with and/or for. Yet does that mean we give up and hope for the best? Sometimes. On the other hand, we can also discover ways to articulate our concerns without worrying about serious repercussions (thought I imagine that will generate a few comments . . . ]. I had a boss once whose eyebrow visibly rose whenever I subtly questioned the way we were working on a project. I think she felt threatened, but at the time this was not a reality that I could accept and so it wasn´t until I left the company that I was able to recognize some of the dysfunction that occurred. But I digress. I want to offer some tips for communicating in difficult circumstances.
Instead of slipping one of the posts from this blog onto your boss´s (or employee´s) desk, perhaps there are some lessons that you can cull from situations you´ve had in the past. It´s interesting how so many of us first opt for the indirect approach. On the surface it appears so much easier than being honest. Honesty might hurt someone´s feelings. Honesty might result in a pink slip. But there are ways to be honest without annihilating someone emotionally. And it is possible to convey your opinions without risking your job.
First, you need to step away from the temptation to "speak your mind." In most cases, we really shouldn´t speak our mind, at least not everything. That´s how you can get into trouble. Often, difficult conversations become troublesome because we´re put in the uncomfortable position of defending ourselves. At first, if you´re the one causing someone else to behave defensively it might feel a little powerful, a little validating. But that´s relatively short-lived. The point of sharing your feelings about something in the workplace is to determine if a change is possible, but the change needs to relate to the company´s wellbeing.
Next time: specific tips for conducting (enduring) difficult conversations in the workplace.