Consultant Q & A: The Most Difficult Conversations in the Workplace

by | Jun 12, 2017 | Blog

  • Integrity HR

If you’ve ever worked anywhere, then you know that difficult conversations are inevitable in the workplace.

Actually, scratch that.

If you’ve ever talked to another human being, then you know that difficult conversations are inevitable in life.

At Integrity HR, we strive to confront difficult interactions head-on, seeking productive and innovative solutions.

Our team of HR Consultants have conquered their fair share of challenging, uncomfortable, strange, and down-right weird situations for our clients.

Today, they’re dishing out details on the most difficult conversations they’ve navigated in their HR career.

It is crucial that business owners, managers, and HR Professionals know how to have a powerful dialogue when the pressure is on – do you feel prepared?

Register for our June 27 seminar, “Handling Difficult Conversations In The Workplace” to gain the tools you need to safely handle difficult conversations and heated discussions in your workplace.

Consultant Q & A: The Most Difficult Conversations in the Workplace

The Stinky Situation

An employer approached me, because one of their high-performing employees was causing discomfort amongst their team and clients. The employee had decided to experiment with an unconventional living arrangement, where they did not have access to running water. Their lack of personal hygiene caused a disturbance and the employer wasn’t sure how to address it. I discussed with the employee that while I didn’t want to interfere with their personal life choices, not taking care of their personal hygiene had a direct, negative affect on their clients and co-workers. Thankfully, they understood and made sure to freshen up before coming to work!

The Intervening Intern

I once hired an extremely driven intern for a company. She was so eager to excel in the profession that she inserted herself into decisions on a project that was not assigned to her. Naturally, the project manager was put-off by her lack of boundaries and respect. I had to speak with the intern to resolve the tension her actions caused. I told her that while I admired her ambition, her eagerness was inappropriate because she lacked both training and authority. I set-up mentoring guidelines to help her better understand her role, and I think her internship ended up being a successful and educational experience.

The Handsy High-Performer

Unfortunately, the most difficult conversation I’ve ever had to navigate was during a sexual harassment case with one of my clients. We had received a number of complaints against one of the members of the company’s leadership team. The complaints all focused on the superior’s inappropriate touchiness, comments, and favoritism. The employee was very valuable to the company and deciding to either terminate or relocate him to another branch was very strenuous. The client ultimately decided that termination would be in the best interest of the company and its staff. After much preparation and role playing, I was able to address the issue with the employee and have a productive termination meeting with him. It was difficult at the time, but in the end, I think everyone benefited from his removal.

The Drug Debacle

I was assisting a client with a drug screen for one of their new hires. The employer needed them to start working before receiving the results of the drug screen, but didn’t anticipate any issues. The results of the test came back in the middle of a work day, and the new hire had tested positive! We spoke with the employee and informed them that they would not be able to continue working there. Suddenly, they realized that they hadn’t informed the testing facility of a prescription they were taking. Everyone was extremely upset about the circumstances, but the company did agree to retest the employee. It was extremely difficult to calm both parties down and mend the frustrations that arose because of the first set of results. Thankfully, the second results came back negative, and everyone moved on!

The Astonishing Accident

Once, a client called the office seeking advice about an employee who was involved in a traffic accident. I assumed they were inquiring about worker’s compensation or some other legality. As I listened, I found out that the accident in question had just occurred and on a major interstate at that! They wanted to know how to handle a major traffic emergency! Of course, I advised them to hang up and call 9-1-1.

The Stubborn Superior

One of the most difficult conversations I have had in my professional career occurred while giving feedback to my superior. I had received numerous complaints about his inappropriate comments and behaviors. Many people found his words and actions to be discriminatory, and I was worried we were going to find ourselves in legal trouble. I approached him about the way the staff was perceiving and interpreting him. Unfortunately, he discounted the message and the complaints continued to escalate. I eventually had to speak with the vice president of human resources, who also confronted him about the issue. He not only denied the instances, but recommended to senior management that I be fired! He was a top performer in the company and was a very profitable resource to them, so I was worried for my job. It was a very uncomfortable time in my career, but thankfully the issues were resolved. I remained there for several years, and the superior in question eventually became one of my biggest supporters. Can you believe it?

While you might not have to address situations like these, you will encounter your own difficult conversations in your workplace.

Will you be prepared?

Register for our June 27 seminar, “Handling Difficult Conversations In The Workplace” to gain the tools you need to safely handle difficult conversations and heated discussions in your workplace. Click here for more information.

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