Difficult conversations- nobody ever really wants to partake or initiate them. However, every human resources professional, administrator, or manager will tell you that sometimes those tough talks are just inevitable. These conversations can stem from a variety of situations such as warnings about poor performances or annual jobs reviews. As a leader, how do you prepare for delicate conversations? You want to get your point clearly across, but without the conversation turning in a negative direction. Thankfully, you are not the first person to have to have a tough talk with your employee, nor will you be the last.

To avoid legal issues or miscommunication, you need to think about and plan what you are going to say. The careful choosing of you words can make all the difference in the direction of the conversation. According to this article from the Society for Human Resource Management, there are several things you should consider doing when confronted with giving a difficult talk. First, and one of the most important, is do not delay the conversation. While delaying the conversation might put you a little bit at ease, it is not helping the employee’s performance at your organization. The sooner the employee is made aware of an issue, the quicker they can try to amend their performance or behavior. Not procrastinating might also help to avoid legal trouble between the employee and the company down the road. Also, try to provide examples for the employee so they can see clearly the issues at hand. Broad explanations won’t give the employee an accurate image of the problem. As SHRM says, “without more information, such generalities provide little guidance. They also don’t offer the employer much support in the event of a claim.” Evidence will lead to a better understanding of the problems, and hopefully, to a better solution.

Among the other tips is to listen to what they employee has to say. In my experience, one of the best qualities in a good leader is their ability to listen to others. Strengthen your leadership capabilities by being a listener, thoroughly hearing out what your employees have to say. There is the possibility that the employee will have a few valid points or reasons for their lack of performance. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget life outside of the office. Keeping the human in human resources is important to remember. Listening to an employee’s explanations might help to provide guidelines to get them back on track. When nearing the end of the conversation, set explicit expectations. Knowing what is expected of them will ultimately help the employee going forward. You both have a mutual want of that employee succeeding within the company.

Tough talks are not fun for either party, but must be done. As French moralist and essayist Joseph Joubert said, “The aim of argument and of discussion, should not be victory, but progress.”