Tackle difficult conversations employee izettle

Food & Drink: Human Resources

5 hacks to master difficult conversations with your staff

By Greta Sanchez on December 1, 20164 minutes read

In case of improper behavior among the employees at your restaurant – anything from violation of rules to a disciplinary issue – make sure to be prepared to resolve the problem as smoothly as possible.

Oh no… No! You just observed that new guy that you hired last week – who seemed nice, customer-friendly yet a bit childish – pick his nose! In front of a customer to whom he handed out one of your signature specials only seconds ago…

Leadership is trickier than just telling your people what to do. If you prepare yourself for situations when you have to tell someone that their behavior isn't acceptable – you’re far more likely to act professionally and not let your emotions take over. And the bottomline? Less damage to your business! Here are five valuable tips to keep in mind:

Be direct and don't fuzz around – bring up the issue sooner than later.

1. Don’t fear the awkward silence

I personally hate awkward silence. Why? Because it’s awkward for Pete’s sake and it makes me want to talk incessantly! In a conversation where you’re admonishing someone, that trembling dreadful silence will occur. And it’s better to accept it and let there be some silence – instead of saying something rapidly to to kill the silence. That way you won’t confuse the upset person and it’ll give him or her some time to absorb the message. Being silent can also be a sign of confidence – a crucial quality for any manager.

You can't control every aspect of your growing business – least of all your employees. But you can be prepared to act when they're doing something out of line.

2. Don't scapegoat – focus on the solution

A great manager doesn’t focus on whose fault it was. Be objective, go through the problem and then switch over to how it can be resolved. Never blame anyone. Just don’t!

3. Listen – but remain consistent

Yes, you’re having the unpleasant conversation with your employee because you don’t share opinions. However, listen to the employee's point of view and weigh it against your own point of view. Does his or her perspective actually suggest a solution that’s better for everyone?


"Words are very unnecessary, they can only do harm…" Do you remember the song "Enjoy The Silence" by Depeche Mode? We're not telling you to enjoy or even embrace the silence. But please accept the awkward silence in any difficult employee-conversation.

4. Have a clear goal for the conversation

If you don’t find any mutually-agreed solution – have an already figured out solution to the problem. That way you’ll find it easier to navigate through the conversation if things get rough.

Never blame anyone. Just don't!

5. Manage emotions

You should never let your emotions determine your decisions – at least not when you’re talking to a steamed up employee. In any tough conversation, try to show compassion and empathy. If two people are upset and having a fight, it can be a good idea to separate them for a while to get things calmed down before getting back to the resolving conversation. Being a great leader is also being a great mediator.

how-to-manage-difficult-conversations-employees
Plan the conversation, but don't script it. How to start it? Be direct and don’t fuzz around. "Hey Adam, we need to talk about what happened yesterday when you..."

Let's sum it up!

Finding the right words in the right moment will always be tough. Try to enter the conversation calm, solutions-focused and unemotional.  Listen (yep, we've said it many times before) and don't take any verbal attacks against you personally. Why not even practice with a friend who has some actor skills – and stage situations where you put our tips into reality?

For more on serious and gross misconduct (and one-off incidents) – make sure to read the guidelines at GOV.UK.

Do you have any special tactics for how to approach these inevitable conversations? Drop us an email and let us know at businesshacks@izettle.com!


For hacks on how to tackle difficult customers – and make them love you, don’t miss our blasting “How to turn customers into fans”-guide.

This article was written in collaboration with our friends at intelligentPOS. For more info on the topic, please visit their blog at intelligentpos.com/uk/blog.

Greta sanchez Greta Sanchez

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