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How to Communicate Sensitive Issues in the Workplace

communicating sensitive issuesNo matter how awesome your office environment is, there is bound to be something that comes up that needs to be handled delicately. From smaller issues, like an employee’s bad personal hygiene, to big-scale issues, like employee theft, it’s important to communicate sensitive issues in a thoughtful and delicate way. What you don’t want to do is ignore the problem. Ignoring an issue in the workplace makes matters worse. It can lead to office gossip, fear, embarrassment and disgruntled employees. Address the issue with the following tips.

1. Prep for it. Don’t just launch into “the talk” with an employee. Prepare yourself for the discussion. Where are you going to sit (all boss-like behind your desk or side-by-side at the conference table in your office)? What are you going to say? Use your words, but don’t overuse them. How are you going to open the discussion? (We recommend something like “Can I talk to you for a minute?” or “This is an uncomfortable subject, but I wanted to talk with you about it.” If you have an HR department in your office, you may even want to do a run through with an HR professional to make sure your verbiage is sensitive yet firm and on point. Also prepare yourself for an employee’s potential negative reaction. No matter how well you approach the subject, they may still be offended or angry. Try to maintain your cool — it’s best to stay calm, no matter what. It’s also fine to offer comforting words during the appropriate scenario.

2. Time it right. If your hardworking yet smelly employee is coming up on a huge deadline, then it’s not the time to address this embarrassing issue, for example. It will only distract them from doing a great job and meeting their deadline. Instead, pick a better time and also a private place where other employees can’t hear your conversation. Avoid dropping by their desk, especially if it’s a cubicle that’s out in the open, for your chat. Also allow people to gather their thoughts after hearing the news since they might feel shocked or not know what to say immediately after.

3. Keep it professional. Don’t bring personal feelings of other employees or your own into it. Communicate the difficult issue with the company and team as a whole in mind. Tie in why the issue is a company matter. For example, if the employee has been mouthing off around the office after finding out that a younger employee receives a higher salary, explain that it makes the entire team uncomfortable, as salary is a private matter and not something you should speak about openly in the office. In this case, you’ll also have to prepare to discuss the rate discrepancy but there’s likely a good reason based on experience or skillset.

Good luck communicating sensitive issues to your employees! It’s never fun, but it comes with being the manager or owner (and kudos to you for being in that position).

Do you have a success or disaster story of communicating sensitive issues in the workplace? Do tell on our 123Print Facebook page, tweet us @123Print or write a note below.

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