Do you think having a difficult conversation with an employee is a stress related activity?

For a number of leaders the answer is definitely “Yes”.

As a matter of fact, too many difficult employee conversations is downright un-healthy.

You could probably hook yourself up to a Vital Signs Monitor and go around recording how those employee chats are adversely affecting your physiology.

However, it may be easier to just believe in some of the prior research.

For example, In the 60’s a psychiatrist and navy scientist conducted an extensive study on stress related events to determine if it related to illness. The fruits of their efforts became known as the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale.

Lo and behold they came up with about forty or so life changing events that contributed to a stress index rating that may contribute to illness. A number of business events, such as “Business readjustment”, and “Trouble with boss” etc. sit squarely in the middle of their stress index as contributors to poor health.

So…. besides not having to have difficult conversations with employees in the first place, how do we reduce the stress of having an unpleasant conversation that unfortunately has to occur?

The text book answer is probably something like

  1. Manage clearly defined expectations that are often supported by a good letter of offer, job description, and agreed goals,
  2. Have appropriate procedures and review processes in place that makes it easier to reduce unwanted behaviour and poor performance,
  3. Provide all types of feedback regularly, and
  4. Take time to have supporting documentation to make conversations less difficult.

However, most of us probably don’t live in a textbook work world.  Do we?

While these things make sense, or sound easy, for the most part having a difficult conversation with an equally difficult employee is usually never that easy.