What’s the Problem? You’re not Discussing the Problem!

What’s the Problem? You’re not Discussing the Problem!

Are you putting off having a difficult conversation?

Have you avoided talking to someone because you were scared to do it or afraid of their reaction?

Has someone complained to you about another person, instead of talking to the person directly?

You’re not alone.

80% of people are shying away from at least 1 difficult conversation at work according to a poll from VitalSmarts¹. If you read that statistic and thinks that can’t be right, here’s another research result. According to Inc.², 7 in 10 employees are avoiding difficult conversations with their boss, colleagues, and direct reports. Other studies show similar results, the clear majority of people avoid having conversations with other people. I sidestepped these talks in my corporate life sometimes, it felt too awkward to face things head on. My coaching clients often label these “Difficult Conversations.” Funnily, when we label them difficult, they often become difficult, even if just in our minds.

What’s the definition of a difficult conversation? It’s a conversation where differences appear to exist between the people; needs, wants, expectations or opinions might differ; emotions are heightened; or there’s a fear of emotions coming into the situation. They are difficult because of the emotional element.

The problem goes further than just avoiding having the “difficult” conversation; people go to extreme lengths to avoid it! That same VitalSmarts’ research reported people waste time and energy to dodge those conversations, to the point of quitting their jobs!

Instead of having that difficult conversation, people will:

• Avoid the other person at all costs (50%)
• Dance around the scary topic whenever they speak to the person in question (37%)
• Consider quitting their job or taking a different job (37%)
• Quit their job (11%)

HRMorning³ reported of an online poll that found 85% of people have problems dealing with a problem in the workplace immediately. What they did instead of dealing with the problem was:

• ‘ruminate’ about the issue (61%)
• complain to co-workers about it (41%)
• feel angry (34%)
• do extra/unnecessary work to avoid dealing with the issue (32%)
• avoid the person involved (29%)
• ‘talk around’ the topic (24%)
• feel sorry for themselves (20%), and
• drop hints to the individual involved (20%).

None of these things are productive, in fact they are counter-productive, negatively affecting productivity.

If people are avoiding the other person or dancing around topics, how productive is this in the workplace? Collaboration and interaction are needed in most jobs to deliver the required business results. If someone is avoiding another person because of a difference in opinion or expectation, is the business getting the best results? Are people contributing their best ideas and coming up with the best solutions? The answer most certainly is NO. If people are quitting their jobs to avoid these conversations, what’s the cost in recruitment fees alone? There must be a better way.

Good news – there is a better way. Stay tuned.

¹ Reported in Crucial Learning by Brittney Maxfield October 2019
² Inc. Most People Handle Difficult Situations by Ignoring Them — and the Fallout Isn’t Pretty by Michael Schneider August 2018, research by workplace resource start-up Bravely.
³ HRMorning: The hidden cost of delaying those ‘difficult conversations’ by Tim Gould 2010

Photo by Yan Krukov