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Difficult Messages Made Easy in the Workplace

April 10, 2013

difficult messages, tough conversations, employee communication, communications consultant, organizational change, david grossman, change

It’s never easy to communicate difficult information to a group of employees, but with these six essential steps, you can prepare for the toughest conversations:

1. Identify the problem. Are business results not where they should be? Do staffing changes need to be made? Are there undesired behaviors that need to change?

2. Identify your desired outcome. Are you trying to put business news in context for your employees? Do you need your team to understand changes that are underway? Do you need desired behaviors to become the norm among your staff?

3. Identify your audience. Do you need to inform your entire staff? Is it a small group of employees? Is it one employee? And should they all hear the message at the same time, or should some people hear it first?

4. Structure your key messages/conversation.

  • What do you want your audience(s) to think, feel and/or do?
  • What will you say (in a calm, constructive way) to employee(s) so that they understand the situation and your concerns.
      • Consider how to start the conversation.
      • Share your motivation and intent
      • Identify the questions you will ask (to see input/check for understanding). For example, “Tell me how you feel about what I just said.”
      • Have stories or examples to share to illustrate your main point.
      • Outline specific actions being taken and/or that your employees need to take.

5. Consider how you will say your message. Select the right time and place to have a conversation with privacy and without distraction. Encourage dialogue so you can get real-time insight on how employees are receiving the information and if they understand what you are saying.

6. Follow up. Do your employees have questions? What’s on their minds?

How do you relay tough messages to your employees?

- David Grossman


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