Whilst talking to my primary school aged daughter about friendships this morning, we started talking about how best to resolve arguments between friends. I said that the best way to resolve an argument is to simply talk to the other person. My daughter immediately replied “Oh no, I couldn’t do that!”.
It got me thinking about how not talking to other people is at the root of so many issues within the workplace and that as an independent HR professional, the first question that I usually ask my clients when they approach me about a difficult employee, a performance issue or some other thorny HR problem is “Have you talked to the employee about this?” And their response is usually the same as my daughter’s!
I often joke that if managers talked to employees about issues at work, I would be out of a job but I do think that we in the HR profession have a responsibility to give our line managers skills in the lost art of conversation. I usually advise managers to talk to employees about issues straight away rather than leaving them to fester (which only makes things worse). Also, it is best to consider how you would like to be treated in a similar situation and make sure that you apply the same approach to the discussion. For example, having these conversations in private, being clear about what you need to say and treating the employee as a grown up. And then it is just a question of getting on with it. The thought of having the conversation is often worse than actually doing it.
Imagine how great it would be if everyone felt more confident in their skills to do this. And how much HR time would be saved and could be focused on activities that really add value to the organisation.