Employees are increasingly encountering uncomfortable situations at work. Since harassment and discrimination are on the rise, many companies are investing time and money into personal development to create an inclusive workplace. However, a difficult conversation is a normal part of business life; and, in the workplace, everyone can learn from all kinds of difficult, even frustrating, conversations.

Often enough difficult conversations end up going nowhere because people are afraid to open up because of timidity. In essence, the fear of being judged or treated unfairly or discriminatorily at work can often prevent people from speaking up.

Most employees believe that if they speak up and their idea is rejected or if their boss reprimands them for their actions, they’ll be viewed as troublemakers and won’t succeed in the company.

A Guide to Handling Difficult Conversations

The following are three ways to manage or learn from difficult conversations at work.

  1. Prepare for a challenging conversation.

Preparing for difficult conversations is half the battle. Managers should always have a plan in place for handling interpersonal conflicts at work. If they’re unsure of where to start, they’ll rely on scripted conversations that will not alleviate conflicts at work.

  1. Avoid sounding like a frustrated parent.

Any conversation that involves blame and shame is counterproductive. The focus shifts from the person’s responsibility to their part in the problem. Understanding intent is one of the biggest challenges in today’s workplace. An issue cannot be resolved by focusing on who is at fault, but rather by understanding the employee’s point of view.

  1. Engage in face-to-face interaction.

Leaders who don’t address incongruent behaviors in person, preferring to use an impersonal email instead, often allow frustration and anger to build up in an employee over time. These unexpressed emotions can lead to a wide range of unintended consequences, including unchecked anger against company executives, reduced productivity on the job, and decreased creativity when technical problems arise in the workplace.

Come to an Agreement

It’s critical to agree on the outcomes of a meeting after a manager has a difficult conversation with an employee. Working towards a mutually satisfactory solution allows everyone to know what shared corporate goals they are all working towards. Agreements put an end to a potential conflict of ideas.