April 22, 2014 – Vicki Pero - Insights

Make The Hard Conversation Easy

Prepared Vs Unprepared Advantage of Being Ready or Unready Prepared Vs Unprepared Advantage of Being Ready or Unready

During a recent episode of the show Parks & Recreation, one of the characters was faced with a situation where she needed to discuss a performance issue with her employee. She went to great lengths to avoid having this hard conversation, including submitting customer feedback to a social media website, hoping the employee would read the review and fix her behavior on her own. While this was very funny and entertaining to watch, the reality is that managers avoid hard conversations quite regularly in the workplace resulting in lower employee performance and morale and ultimately adversely affecting the company’s brand or product delivery. While there are a lot of reasons why people sidestep hard conversations, utilizing the following practices can make these discussions easier.

The SAR Model

Removing emotion and subjectivity from hard conversations can go a long way in terms of reducing the stress and discomfort that comes with having them. The Situation/Action/Result model can be used to provide feedback while reducing or eliminating these challenges. It helps managers objectify performance by siting a specific situation tied to a job expectation, and identifying how the employee reacted to the situation through his/her actions and/or decision making, ultimately affecting the result.


When you’re preparing to have a hard conversation with an employee, start by identifying a recent situation that illustrates the performance gap you want to discuss. This may be an interaction with a customer or coworker or perhaps a project deliverable. Consider the details of the situation and how you can convey them objectively to your employee.


What were the choices that your employee made in the situation you’ve identified above that led to the issues and performance feedback you plan to share? When pinpointing these, focus on the actions and decisions your employee made and not on him or her as an individual. This will help you avoid those subjective and emotional triggers. There is a very big difference between explaining to an employee that he raised his voice, pointed his finger at a customer, etc. versus saying you were rude, angry, and so on.


The final component of the feedback is to describe the outcome that occurred because of the employee’s decisions and supporting actions. Drawing a clear connection between the two is helpful in terms of avoiding defensiveness and gaining buy in from your employee. During this part of the conversation, be sure to state your expectations for the future and gain commitment from your employee.

 Are you interested in more information about hard conversations? uDrive subscribers have access to tools and templates that can help. These can be found in the Resources for the Parking Manager and Organizational Performance sections of the site.