How to Have THE Conversation

How to Have THE Conversation

We need to talk. Hey Pete, do you have some time? I previously wrote a post about how to properly provide feedback in the workplace. However, sometimes we reach a point where no feedback or negotiation is enough to keep the working relationship going. Today I would like to talk about having the "difficult conversation at work". Whether you are an employee or an employer, it does not come easy to have the "Quit/Lay off" conversation. So How can we address this issue and leave the door open?

These conversations are naturally awkward and sometimes they are even inevitable. Regardless of the reasons behind the decision, we need to set common ground on what the best ways to have them are. The truth is sometimes we wait too long to have them, and that makes it even harder to do so.

Continuous Feedback

If you have reached a point where you can not keep the relationship is because you have provided feedback to the other party. You have had conversations about your employee's performance or about how you are feeling with your boss. If you haven't had these chats then you have not given the situation time to best itself. However, if you have had the conversations and nothing has changed on the other end, or they have not changed the way you negotiated them to, be honest and respectful at all times. Identify or address the root of the problem and then move on with your decision.


The situation and its outcome are uncomfortable enough, so you need to make sure you are feeling confident when addressing it. Begin the conversation on a positive note, cut to the chase, and end the conversation on a positive note as well. Your confidence will make the other person feel trust. Do not let the other person feel disappointed.

Be Conciliatory

During these times there is no space for finding a culprit or blaming anyone. Try not to offend anyone or talk about things that you think were not right. This time is to help each other build and grow, so, always bring constructive elements and opinions to the discussion. Suggest solutions or better approaches without invalidating what the other person does or feels.

Speak for yourself, for what you have done, accomplished, your goals, your mistakes. The other person might have made mistakes as well, but they are probably aware of them and will address them after you have spoken.

Notice Periods

Just like it could be difficult for a company to find an employee that is leaving, it is difficult for someone to find a new job. That is why this should be an important rule. Everyone in a work relationship either employer or employee should provide and respect notice periods or severance packages. Notice periods allow the other party to find a solution to this new situation. The time after your decision should always be constructive and give room for improvement and leave things on good terms. Discuss with the other party whether or not the notice period would be necessary. Never make things difficult for your employer or employee just because you are ending the relationship. Make the best of the last collaborations together, get everything ready for your new employee or your new job.

Final Words

Always remember the other side of your conversation is human just like you. Keep in mind these news must be delivered in person or at least face to face. Give the other party time to reflect on what is happening and a space to talk about it. Try to be as humane as you would like to be treated when being delivered this kind of news. We know delivering bad news is not an easy thing to do, but you should never push it off until it is too late.

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