Communication is critical! It’s something we all know, but whether we practice what we preach is another story entirely, especially in the workplace.
While we can do our best to foster positive and respectful workplace dynamics, there are always going to be difficult conversations and situations that arise. This might include delivering poor performance reviews to workers, problems relating to bullying and harassment, or having to let an employee go.
Handled the wrong way, a crucial conversation can have negative impacts on the mental health of both the employee and employer. In some circumstances, it can lead to ongoing difficulties in the workplace.
While delicate situations like these can be difficult to manage, they can be handled the RIGHT way. A recent report from our friends at Allianz provides some helpful tips on “crucial conversations” in the workplace and the best ways to approach them.
What exactly is a “crucial conversation”?
Broadly speaking, a crucial conversation is defined as “a discussion with high stakes, differing opinions, and strong emotions.”
These can range from conversations about a promotion or a pay rise, to cases of sexual harassment in the workplace. While the particulars of a crucial conversation can vary quite significantly, it is always important to approach them with care and sensitivity.
As Allianz notes in their report, “when handled poorly or avoided, these conversations can lead to broader mental health issues in the workplace, including strained relationships, decreased productivity, employee dissatisfaction, poor results, or even more serious psychological issues.”
Crucial conversations and mental health
Considering the seriousness of the issues outlined above, it seems clear that crucial conversations and the issues that lead to them, need to be taken seriously. With the enduring impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and its effects on mental health, handling crucial conversations the right way is more important than ever.
The pandemic has taken a significant toll both in Australia and globally, with substantial job losses and psychological distress. Allianz has reported that amongst their workforce, “psychological injury claims have increased 12% since the pandemic began.”
Despite this, it seems many employers haven’t taken the necessary steps to foster a more mentally healthy workplace. Allianz’s report found that, while 9 out of 10 managers felt as if their business had been proactive in fostering “a more mentally healthy work environment in the last 12 months”, only 21% of employees said they were very satisfied with their employer’s efforts.
This disconnect suggests more needs to be done in this area.
Some of the problems identified in the report seem to suggest a degree of uncertainty about who should initiate crucial conversations. While 38% of employers say they “check-in” with their employees once a month regarding mental health, only one-quarter of those said they are proactive in approaching employees and providing opportunities to engage in crucial conversations.
A smaller number of employers (16%) admitted to not having a single crucial conversation with an employee in the past year. However, double that number (33%) of employees said they hadn’t engaged in a crucial conversation with their employer during the same period.
Being proactive in fostering more open and regular communication in the workplace may help to address these issues. Indeed, Allianz found 25% of employees only speak to their manager once a month and the same number said they felt comfortable starting a discussion with their manager about their concerns in the workplace.
Akyra’s key takeaways
While crucial conversations can be hard to navigate, there are strategies that can help. To that end, we’ve identified five key tips for leading a crucial conversation in your workplace and being mindful of mental health.
- Personalise things: every employee and situation is going to be different. Always be clear and focus on the primary issue and objective of the conversation whilst being mindful the conversation’s tone and setting are suited to the specific circumstance and employee.
- Keep it open and trusting: make sure you approach the situation with care and respect. Make it clear to your employee you value them and their opinion and have their best interests at heart.
- Set the right tone: be aware of your body language and tone of voice. Allow your employee to share their views and concerns before you reach a conclusion. It’s important to remember employees often want to know they are being seen and heard and that what they’re saying is important.
- Follow up: not every situation is going to be resolved in one conversation. Make sure to follow up on crucial conversations so employees know progress is being made regarding the issue at hand.
- Be proactive: don’t wait for problems to occur before you have a crucial conversation. Be proactive! Schedule regular check-ins with employees, talk to staff about ‘switching off’ from work when they’re off the clock, and make sure employees are aware of your workplace’s mental health policy.
NEED MORE INFORMATION?
Akyra can help your business to assist and support all your questions and concerns related to crucial conversations in the workplace, and training staff and management surrounding best practices. Please contact Akyra on 07 3204 8830 or book a free 30-minute consultation for an obligation-free conversation.
Disclaimer – Reliance on Content
The material distributed is general information only. The information supplied is not intended to be legal or other professional advice, nor should it be relied upon as such. You should seek legal or professional advice in relation to your specific situation.
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https://www.allianz.com.au/images/internet/How-to-navigate-crucial-conversations-A-guide-for-managers.pdf, https://www.allianz.com.au/business/workers-compensation/news/conversations-about-mental-health-in-the-workplace, https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=7b7daeff-62ba-45b5-be69-9e39b3d478b1, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jul/14/covids-mental-health-toll-one-in-five-australians-report-high-levels-of-psychological-distress,