How to Move Forward After a Difficult Workplace Conversation

By Harvard Business Review
October 24, 2017

Here are three suggestions for rebuilding a good relationship after a tough talk, while also making progress on the problem at hand. 

Much has been written about how to have difficult conversations, but what are you supposed to do afterward? Following up and building a relationship after a hard conversation matter just as much as tackling the conversation in the first place.

Here are three key steps that can rebuild a good working relationship following a challenging conversation, while also making progress on the problem at hand.

ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THE CONVERSATION HAPPENED: Rather than pretend it never happened, you should always follow up, acknowledge that it was a tough situation and focus on the positive. There is huge value in appreciating that you were able to come together, identify an issue and even have the initial conversation. Thank your colleague for taking the time to engage in the discussion.

RELATED: More Than Words Can Say: How Delivery Affects the Message

FIND WAYS TO MOVE THE CONVERSATION FORWARD: Be proactive in showing that you are resilient and solutions-oriented, and that you want to stay in the conversation. Even if you were only able to come to an agreement about a few action steps during the difficult conversation, send a follow-up email to summarize the conversation and focus on the outcomes you both want.

RELATED: Conversation Killers: Statements That Shut Down Collaboration

FOCUS ON BUILDING THE LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIP: Remember that every interaction is just one human talking to another. If the only interaction you have with someone is a difficult conversation, that person may start avoiding you or associating you with awkward meetings. Instead, pay attention to building the relationship outside of the challenging conversation. This step balances both the outcome you desire regarding the specific issue under consideration and the work relationship you want for the long term.

RELATED: More Articles on Communication

Copyright 2017 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.

Topics: Management

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