From time to time, uncomfortable situations will likely arise in your career—you’ll have difficult conversations and you need to know how to handle them. Some interactions will feel more difficult than others, and a lot depends upon the interpersonal relationships you’ve built with your colleagues, supervisor, and others.
The prospect of opening up difficult conversations often makes even the most experienced pros among us uneasy. Like any challenge, there are ways to effectively prepare and troubleshoot.
It’s critical for employees as well as managers to know how to bridge communication gaps, navigate remote team conflict, and resolve any interpersonal issues.
Here are tips on five common difficult conversations that you’ll likely run into at least once (if not a dozen times) in your career:
1. Handle the negotiation.
Before accepting a new role, most of us are inclined to negotiate—and it feels socially acceptable to do so. If you haven’t landed a new gig, however, it might not feel like the “right time” to initiate a negotiation. Rather than staying silent on the matter, allow yourself to consider angling for what you want. Is it a raise? More vacation days? A new title or the chance to head up a big project?
If it matters to you, start preparing. Gather evidence showing why you deserve what you’re requesting. Do some research on what exists in your industry and determine your BATNA (best alternative to negotiated agreement). If your employer doesn’t approve another week of vacation, for example, have a second option (working more flexible hours) ready, and a concrete reason for the ask. That way, you’ll know you’re exploring all options rather than merely settling for less.
2. Sniff out snark.
Unless someone is overtly offensive toward you, it can be challenging to determine if antagonism or pessimism is intended to be taken personally. Regardless, it’s not fun to feel as if you’re on the receiving end of snark, whether it’s delivered privately or more publicly with teammates present.
If another person’s tone or behavior is making you uncomfortable, however, you must address it. When the incessant barking of your neighbor’s dog disturbs you, you speak to them before calling the police, right? (In the interest of preserving a peaceful environment, I’m hoping that you do.)
Same goes here. Before bringing a superior into things, set up a video call with the suspected snarker, as visual cues matter a lot in these high stakes conversations. Emphasize your commitment to building trust within a positive working relationship. Then share your feelings in a forthright but controlled manner, using “When you