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Difficult discussions with employees – tips for CPOs and Managers

  • By Manav Jain
  • January 1, 2023
  • 6 mins read
Tips on how to handle difficult discussions with employees during difficult times from BarRaiser
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    Downsizing is not something that leaders desire to do. Research also indicates that reactive workforce reductions can be counterproductive when the lost productivity and the costs of retraining and rehiring outweigh short-term savings in salaries and benefits.
    While layoffs may sometimes be necessary (especially during economic downturns) when other cost-cutting measures are insufficient and the company’s revenues and cash flow are declining, it is important to handle them with both thought and sensitivity. All leaders understand the logic behind Force Reduction or Reduction (“RIF”). This is the “think” part, but not everyone correctly understands the “feel” part. As a leader, you need both. The decisive factor is how termination is performed. Leading with your head and heart is imperative for something as tricky as downsizing.
    Your ability to get this balance right can change or destroy your reputation as a leader and your company’s reputation as an employer…for better or worse. Firing employees with compassion and dignity is not only the right thing to do to prevent business failure, but it also helps sow the seeds of long-term success for the company.
    A layoff could mean the end of this business relationship, but remember, we live in a small world. How you treat your employees when they walk out the door can have a long-term impact on your reputation and that of your company.



    • Speak directly with all departing team members 
    • Get to the point
    • Provide advice to the employee during the transition 
    • End the discussion amicably
    • Ensure a smooth exit process
    • Pressure people to sign documents they aren’t ready to sign 
    • Assume responsibility for the choice
    • Promise anything you can’t keep
    • Bring up the layoff 

    Whether the layoffs are due to the current economic downturn, organizational restructuring, or performance issues, good leaders ensure that all former employees are potential future customers, clients, or Recognize to be a partner. Sometimes “boomerang” employees return to your company.

    Tips for handling difficult conversations with employees

    Here are some tips for surviving difficult conversations with coworkers.

    Have a conversation as soon as possible

    Avoiding difficult conversations with co-workers can worsen things. Quickly schedule meetings to address issues immediately, work on resolutions as quickly as possible, and minimize the negative impact on employees and others.

    Stay professional

    Stay professional even in difficult conversations with employees. These discussions can get emotional, so it’s important to stay calm and use facts rather than opinions when voicing your opinions. 

    Incorporate feedback into regular communications

    Real-time feedback, whether positive or negative, is hard to share, but worth it. My boss likes to get right to the point by saying “Here’s my latest feedback” and giving his honest opinion on how things went. A place has been created where it is not inappropriate to offer constructive criticism, although it is an opportunity for helpful suggestions.

    In addition to face-to-face meetings, schedule regular feedback through video chat

    Does your business mandate recurring performance reviews? If not, consider adding more frequent evaluations in addition to weekly or biweekly 1:1 meetings. Better still, allocate five to ten minutes for routine one-on-one meetings to discuss staff performance. Even if you don’t spend the allotted time each week, you’ll be glad you did when necessary to provide corrective comments.

    Be factual, concise, and considerate

    Focus on facts. “We missed an important deadline, so we had to delay the launch of our product by a month. Going forward, we will be more proactive in sharing progress updates, and if we miss our deadline, we will Please let us know early so we can adjust our plans.” Nothing personally designed will help employees hear the feedback you are trying to provide or improve in the future. Instead, do things in a way that helps employees solve problems rather than putting them on the defensive.
    Let employees respond and hear their feedback on the situation. You may not be able to change anything at this point, but you can be compassionate and let your colleagues know their voices are being heard. For example, he may not be able to change the new policy that the remote worker must travel to headquarters once a month, but he can ask his remote teammates to listen to their grievances and what they can do. You can let us know if you want to change and know why.
    Give a clear plan for proceeding when you wrap up the conversation. Do you anticipate any behavior changes from your employee? Are you introducing new practices that they must adhere to? Notify them. You can demonstrate to your employee how they can improve a negative situation by being straightforward about the next actions.

    Get 360-degree feedback

    Asking colleagues to give their views equally is a simple method to win their trust and create an honest workplace atmosphere. You want children to understand that it’s acceptable, to be honest about the positives and the difficulties they are experiencing. You should always rely on data and deep analytics to find how to deliver personalized training and intervention to the interviewer. AI-based tools like BarRaiser can help you do that!
    Don’t you want the same ability to anticipate difficulties you might be causing if you attempt to be proactive and head off issues before they snowball?
    Additionally, if your direct reports perceive that the connection is equally susceptible, it will foster trust in them. 

    Stay positive

    When dealing with sensitive or seemingly negative issues, try to approach the situation positively. You can start a conversation by mentioning the areas your employees are doing well. We also need to have possible solutions to show that there is a way forward.

    Involve human resources

    For serious or sensitive issues, your company’s Human Resources representative should be involved in the discussion. They can act as witnesses to meetings, review company policies, and assist with proper documentation. 

    Keep the meeting confidential

    Share the reason for the meeting and the outcome of the discussion only with those members of the team who need to know. Keeping conversations confidential shows respect and consideration for employees. This level of professionalism helps limit distractions for other employees and reduces gossip in the workplace by demonstrating the behavior you expect from your team. Streamline your processes and focus on creating a more meaningful and impactful candidate experience. BarRaiser works with 200+ companies worldwide to help structure interviews. Give interviewers all the tools and resources they need to evaluate candidates more effectively and encourage them to treat every candidate like a VIP. If you don’t give the best candidates a reason to say no, you’re one step closer to the question, “When should I start?”

    Track your progress

    After a suitable period, plan a follow-up conversation to ensure you discuss the matter again. You have already stated expectations regarding what should alter between your initial talk and the follow-up. Hold yourself and your employee responsible now. Without responsibility, the team member could become even more disenchanted and wonder why they were forced to have a hard conversation in the first place. Keep an eye on the situation so that everyone thinks that things are getting better since you can see how they may get worse from here.
    Let your representative know they are always available for follow-up questions or concerns. They may want to speak with you before the official follow-up meeting. Encourage them to do so. Here’s how to help them win.
    Inform them of available resources to remedy or manage the situation. Do they need to improve a specific skill? Point them to learning resources. Are they at odds with co-workers who would benefit from being face-to-face? Tell them if travel money is available for office meetings when you’re working remotely.


    Layoffs are tough on everyone involved in many ways. Of course, they are the hardest for the departing employees facing uncertain futures and livelihoods. You can make the release process easier by showing compassion and applying the above elements when doing a release. In doing so, not only will it generate valuable goodwill so that departing employees can better reflect on their time at the company, but it will also show that you care about the wider business community and future talent. Solutions such as Career Support and Outplacement Assistance help affected employees and enhance their final impression of your company or employer branding. These temporary benefits allow employees to focus on their motivation to support them in pursuing their next career during their final experience with the brand. Doing so can ultimately lay the foundation for your company’s long-term success.
    A fundamental way of avoiding such discussions in their entirety is to hire right in the first place. This requires cautious screening of candidates through the means of structured interviews. Recording and analyzing these interviews for unbiased decision-making. BarRaiser Interview Intelligence can help

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    You might be losing the capacity to think critically. The skeleton of any piece of writing is a well-organized paragraph. They provide the four Cs of effective communication—clarity, coherence, control, and credibility.

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