My clients bring a wide variety of difficult conversations to their coaching sessions.  Here are a few of the most common:

  1. Overlooked for a promotion:  There’s no way around it – you need to have the conversation with your manager about your career path and how he/she can help you develop to be ready for the next opportunity.  Do you need more education?  Different projects?  More cross-functional team projects?  Supervisory experience?  You won’t know until you ask!
  2. Getting promoted makes you the boss of your former peers/friends:  Each situation is different based on the 2 people involved.  But what is necessary in every case is communication and honesty.   Start by admitting the obvious and be brave enough to state the elephant in the room that everyone sees – – you are now their boss.  Given that, you need to have a frank conversation about what you both need to be positioned for success.  What will be the same?  Can you still go to lunch together?  What needs to change?  What do you need from each other?  Recognize there will be feelings and emotions about this on each side, and give each other the time to work through those.  How you feel when you first hear the news won’t necessarily be the way you feel about it all a week later.
  3. Managing/working with a difficult employee:  A difficult person can negatively impact the work environment for everyone else.  This means they ARE impacting business results and perhaps customers too, so it needs to be addressed.

Get really clear on what behaviors, competencies or attitudes are the root causes of the issue.  Then those can be contrasted to ones that will more favorably impact the business, customers and coworkers.  You now have enough information for the first developmental conversation with the difficult employee.  As long as you can talk about these things in relationship to results and the job itself, you have a basis for a conversation.

If possible, bounce your approach off of your HR partner or another manager to make sure you’re not setting yourself up for trouble down the line and that everything you will be sharing is professional and appropriate to the job.  HR may also be able to help you devise a developmental plan to help this employee modify the problem behaviors.