How to deal with difficult conversations

How to deal with difficult conversations
27 June 2019    Donnay Torr    0 comments
Nobody just breezes through their working day without a care in the world. Sometimes, challenges happen. Here's how to deal with them.

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My teammates are driving me mad!

Here’s the thing about colleagues: they’re all human beings. Which means that every single one of them has their own opinions, habits and ways of doing things. And that leaves plenty of room, for, as the great Homer Simpson would say: D’oh!


At some point, you’re probably going to butt heads with someone. How you deal with it can be key to your future workplace happiness.
  • Get to know your colleagues. First impressions aren’t always the best way to decide whether you’re going to work well with someone or not.
  • Before losing your temper and screaming at a colleague, take five deep breaths. And then ask yourself: what could I do that might improve this situation? Because here’s the thing: the only person you can control, is you.
  • Once you’ve thought about what you could bring to the conversation:
    • Have a quiet chat with your colleague in a private space about ways in which you could work together better.
    • Don’t send an email to the entire office about your problems, or let off steam in the middle of the break room.
    • If a one-on-one chat doesn’t make things better, consider talking to your supervisor.

IMPORTANT: If a colleague is:

  • making you feel physically unsafe,
  • bullying you,
  • causing mental distress or
  • harassing you in any way, sexually or otherwise, it’s best to go straight to your supervisor, or a person that you trust in the company’s Human Resources department.

Bullying and any kind of harassment or discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, culture, religion, and physical- or mental disability is illegal. You do not have to put up with it!

My work load is doing my head in!

If you’ve just started working, it can take a while to find your feet and manage your tasks properly.



Try this:
  • When you start, you should get a proper job description that explains your duties and tasks. Make sure you understand exactly what's expected of you.
  • Discuss your tasks with your supervisor: what should be the top priorities, and what is most urgent? Make sure you understand what the main focus of your role is, and how it fits into the bigger picture: the business’ overall goal.
  • Draw up a To Do-list: Label it “Top Priority”, “Important”, and “Routine” – break your tasks down in the beginning until you know how to prioritise them automatically.
  • Check in with your supervisor and team mates regularly to find out what the team is working on, and what they expect from you.
  • Eat the frog! This basically means doing the toughest or scariest task first thing in the morning. Once it's done, you'll feel much better, and be free and confident to complete other tasks.
If you’re still struggling to get ahead with your work load after the first three months, you might have too much on your plate. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – arrange to have a chat with your supervisor to help you prioritise (or even lessen) your tasks if you’re struggling to cope.

I need to talk to my boss!

Need a chat with your manager? It may be a bit daunting to arrange one – especially since managers are usually really busy. And sometimes scary. Do this:
  • Determine exactly why you need this meeting: write down a few notes about what worries you most. Can you solve any of it by yourself?
  • Email your boss with a polite request for a meeting on a date and time that suits them best – give them a rough outline of what you’d like to discuss.
  • Before the meeting, take some time to think about your role in the challenges you are facing: could you be the one who is causing the problem, and who needs to adapt? How can you make things better?
  • Go into the discussion prepared: have a list of your concerns, BUT, also have a list of how you think some of your problems might be solved.
  • Always be respectful, never demand, and try to frame the conversation as a way to improve yourself.

Try this as an email script you can use:

Hi [boss name here],
I'm facing some challenges at work, and would appreciate the opportunity to discuss them with you. Would it be possible to set up a meeting, and when would suit you best?

Conversation script:

Thank you for taking the time to chat to me, I appreciate it! I am struggling with [insert problem here], and finding things overwhelming. Could I have some guidance on [insert issue here]?

Always remember:

We're all human, and as much as we'd like to pretend otherwise, none of us are perfect. If things get tough, reach out and talk to someone. And remember to treat your colleagues with kindness - they have their own stories, too!

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