The three toughest work conversations

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2. ‘I don’t like your attitude.’ The awkward personality conversation
 “Never use phrases like, ‘I don’t want you to take this the wrong way,’” says Hill. “This is a classic priming statement and now the person is on the lookout for a way to ‘take it the wrong way.’ Always prime the person towards the successful outcome, such as, ‘I need us to both be on the same page.’

“Avoid naming unhelpful traits. ‘I want to talk about you being arrogant’. Ouch. I can guarantee this conversation will head south, fast. Take the unhelpful trait and find a strength: cynical becomes realistic and interfering becomes inquisitive. This paints a different picture yet remains on topic. For instance, when addressing arrogance: ‘One of your strengths is that you’re a confident guy, but there are times when your confidence can be a little overwhelming or misplaced. Let me give you an example...’.”

3. ‘Your work is just not good enough.’ The underperformance conversation
“One of the biggest mistakes people make is to focus on traits instead of behaviours,” he says. “Firstly, confusion occurs because the definition of a certain trait varies from person to person. I may consider dedication as taking on extra tasks while you might interpret this as more thoroughness in your projects.

“Secondly, traits are often enduring patterns. Thinking you can change them in a half-hour conversation is ambitious. Don’t tell someone they lack initiative – highlight that they rarely put their hand up to lead projects and you will have a much higher chance of success.”


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