When things aren’t going smoothly at work, difficult conversations with co-workers are sometimes necessary. Unfortunately, this is true for all workers, whether you’re responsible for managing direct reports, discussing sensitive issues with your supervisor or trying to finish a collaborative project with an unhelpful peer. Having these conversations remotely can be even more challenging.
Face-to-face conversations make it easier for people to assess social situations. Virtual conversations diminish your ability to read cues from co-workers, such as body language and facial expressions.Therefore, these discussions increase the risk of misunderstandings.
As difficult as it may be to discuss workplace issues with co-workers, ignoring problems to avoid tough conversations often makes matters worse. Successfully navigate difficult remote conversations with these tips:
• Build trust early. The isolation of remote work can increase anxiety and decrease trust among coworkers. Building trust with your peers or direct reports with transparency, clear expectations and effective communication can make it easier to have difficult conversations down the road and reduce the risk of misunderstandings.
• Consult with HR. An HR professional can help you ensure you’re approaching tough conversations in a way that aligns with organizational policies. They may also be able to help you make sure you aren’t saying anything that would put your own interests at risk.
• Prepare what you want to say. Going into a difficult conversation unprepared could lead you to say things you don’t mean or cause you to send an unclear message to your co-worker. Prepare for tough conversations by writing up talking points, brainstorming possible solutions and practicing your delivery.
• Use your video camera. Whenever possible, rely on your video camera for these conversations. Unlike phone calls, your video camera allows you to see your co-workers’ expressions and body language and may be able to help you understand how they’re responding to your words.
• Keep your focus on work. Leave emotion out of the conversation as much as possible. Tie the issue back to performance and business concerns, rather than getting caught up in elevated emotions that could make finding a resolution challenging.
Remote work makes effective communication with coworkers and direct reports more important and more challenging than ever. When a difficult topic arises, reduce the risk of misunderstandings with these tips.