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  • Mark Shaw

Why is the Difficult Conversation So Difficult?

Let’s focus specifically on the difficult conversation a manager has to have regarding poor performance.  If you choose to start with what is considered ‘best practice’ by the various HR bodies, you will frame your conversation around compliance to the rules, focusing on the individual’s development needs and being strategic.


I argue that this approach is outdated and needs review.  


I argue ‘best practice difficult conversation’ should be based on risk assessment and problem solving.  


I.e. in my view and experience, managers understand that employees are different and driven by different motivations and can be considered as either 2%-ers, Worker-Bees or Gifts 


The risk profile and problems caused by each group are vastly different therefore requiring a very different ‘best practice for a difficult conversation’ approach for each.


For over 35 years and across a range of industry groups the results of this thinking include:

  1. Managers agree with the concept of the 2%-ers, worker-bees and gifts

  2. This approach works allows managers to address the needs of individuals and the risks to the organisation in a more targeted and effective manner.

  3. For the 2%-ers, I have a 100% success rate defending the management decision when challenged 

  4. For organisations, this approach has led to measurable productivity improvements up between 10% and 30% 

My evidence indicates ‘a best practice for the difficult conversation’ based on risk assessment and problem solving generates a superior outcome to one built on compliance, development and being strategic.


What are your thoughts?

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