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Truly Crucial Conversations Are About…

Crucial Conversations Are About Behaviour Not Policy

Communication skills and communication at work are topics that have been in the media consistently and have had a variety of books written.

And yet those of us working with or in companies often still hear others – perhaps ourselves at times – bemoaning the fact that colleagues are not:

  • dealing with tension or conflict effectively
  • complaining to each other rather than to someone who can take action
  • effective at getting their message across
  • dealing with customers as well as we’d like
  • interacting well with each other

We could go on for hours (at least) about why this is the case: changing trends in society, different expectations and styles of different generations, the impact of social media and technology where people type more than they speak. And the list goes on…… and on…..

In workplace terms and my view: truly crucial conversations are about behaviour not about the content of policy or guidelines.

Create a Workplace Culture

The truly crucial conversations are about how employees interact with other to create a workplace culture.

Truly crucial conversations are about why a policy (such as prevention of bullying or harassment exists) and what people need to do.

Too often out policies canvass the reporting and complaint making process with a focus on the person who is experiencing that negative behaviour and its impact. There is not often guidance for what other staff can or ought to do. In fact many policies rightly say that a formal complaint can only be lodged by the person who has been negatively impacted by a situation (or situations).

That begs the question of what I am doing writing this post.

Let’s consider an example of a person who feels that a co-worker is bullying them.

In most cases the first reference point a person will seek out is their co-workers – and silent co-workers may well be interpreted as co-workers who agree with or endorse the statements or actions of the potential perpetrator. In other words, the silence is interpreted as not only a Yes, but as endorsement and agreement.

This can then even further isolate the individual and also create a belief that there is little to be gained from saying something to a manager because if all others agree then clearly the bully is correct. Can you understand how pervasive this is? How insidiously the actions or words or taunts of one person, through the silence of others, can be interpreted as a new form of “right”.

Human beings are tribal creatures and we typically seek to fit in. When an individual feels that they do not fit in the most typical response is to alter personal behaviour in order to fit in. What happens to a culture or a society when the behaviour that is being followed is not actually socially acceptable or endorsed?

Be Prepared For Those Crucial Conversations

The crucial conversations are about what others can and ought to say in day to day workplace interactions relating to harassing or bullying behaviour.

The crucial conversations are about how the OHS policy and documentation is put into practice and how to role model and mentor new members to the team.

The crucial conversations are about how to approach someone that you may have observed speaking or behaving inappropriately to another staff member.

The crucial conversations are about supporting managers to open tricky topics with their team members to address issues before they get out of hand or become habit.

The crucial conversations are about being aware of your self and how your moods affect you, and how they affect others.

The crucial conversations are about being aware to the signs that your intended impact with someone either has or has not worked.

The crucial conversations are about people and their performance.

They are about coaching and enabling people to improve their future behaviour and their future outcomes.

They must be had.

They are founded on skills that can be taught.

They are enabled by coaching that can be provided – from self awareness to conversation planning.

The crucial conversations are about to happen – what have you done to ensure that you are prepared?