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The shift from office-based to hybrid and remote work during and after the pandemic has had an adverse effect on workplace relationships. Those managers who were really great at communication in the office might not be as good now their teams are not working together all the time.

Remote communications and successful team collaboration require different management styles and responses from all parties.

The remote work environment overall needs to be more structured to ensure workers feel supported, and in general, tough conversations can be avoided if regular comms are managed proactively.

In December 2021, 54% of professionals said the pandemic had a negative impact on their relationships, and we are still seeing evidence of this.

Having difficult conversations with superiors or colleagues has always been hard.  It relies on a solid foundation of trust and regular communication. Fully remote work is impacting how we establish these relationships in the first place. Consider workers who have only come on board as remote workers and so may not have had the chance to meet their co-workers at all. 

Remote working means red flags can be easily missed. For example, poor communication with colleagues or customers can go unnoticed for longer – especially if someone has only come on board recently as a remote worker.

Having difficult conversations is essential for maintaining a healthy working relationship and achieving your goals. 

Here are our top tips for approaching difficult conversations at work when you work remotely.

Top Tips For Handling Difficult Conversations With Your Boss

 #1 Prepare How and What You Want To Say

Before you initiate the conversation, make sure you have thought through the issue, identified your concerns, and prepared to articulate them clearly and succinctly. You may also want to consider the possible reactions your boss might have and prepare responses to address those reactions. Consider the other person’s perspective and ask for feedback from someone who is not involved in the discussion to see what they think

 

#2 Think Carefully About The Time and Place

If you can have the conversation face to face, do! This is not always a) possible or b) suitable if you have never met face to face, for example. But being able to read someone’s body language is very important and can help make difficult conversations easier!  

Try to choose a time when your boss is not too busy or stressed. If you know there is a big event or meeting ongoing for example. Agree a location where you can have an open and honest conversation without interruptions or distractions. Work together to select a time when both you and the other person are likely to be in the right frame of mind. 

#3 Focus on The Issue

Separate the person from the issue. It can be easy to get worked up and emotional – especially when you are remote working and perhaps don’t have anyone to vent to.  Stick to the topic at hand and avoid bringing up past issues or unrelated topics. Be specific about the issue and avoid making generalisations or assumptions. 

#4 Be Clear And Concise When Having Difficult Conversations

Without the benefit of body language, your actual language becomes even more crucial. When discussing your concerns, use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. For example, instead of saying “You never listen to me,” say “I feel like my opinions are not being heard.” Be clear and concise. Stick to the facts and avoid using emotional language. Be direct and specific about the issue you want to address. 

#5 Listen Actively

Allow your boss to express their thoughts and feelings and listen actively to what they have to say. Active listening is a great skill to learn and practice.  Listen without judgement and avoid interrupting. Maintain eye contact. If you are having your difficult conversation online, make sure you look directly into the camera regularly. You still need to look at the other persons face, as you need to try and read and respond to non-verbal cues but by regularly glancing into the camera, it mimics direct eye contact.  Try to understand their perspective and look for common ground. Repeat back what they have said to show that you have heard and understood them. 

#6 Be Open To Solutions

Instead of just highlighting the problem, offer potential solutions to the issue and be open to compromise. You can also ask your boss for their input on finding a resolution. Collaborate with the other person to find a solution that works for both of you. 

Difficult Conversations Are Normal (But Can Be Avoided)

After the conversation, follow up with your boss to ensure that the issue is being addressed and that you are both on the same page. Check in regularly to show that you are committed to resolving the issue. 

Remember that having difficult conversations with your boss is a normal part of the workplace, and it can lead to positive outcomes for both you and your organization. By preparing, choosing the right time and place, focusing on the issue, using “I” statements, listening actively, proposing solutions, and following up, you can have a productive conversation with your boss. 

Forbes has a great article for managers looking for helpful advice on difficult remote conversations.

If you enjoyed this post, you can read more on our blog.

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