Dealing with people is a skill on its own.  This is why many business owners and managers find managing a team of employees a big leap from starting out as a one-man band or a partnership.

Yes, it’s obvious that people are different from one another, and may mean managers having to have difficult workplace conversations with awkward employees who express themselves disruptively.

This is often a challenge, and the temptation is to put it off, or avoid such conversations altogether. However, doing this is likely to exacerbate the problem, until it has a serious impact on staff morale and threatens to damage the entire workplace culture.


Who is Awkward at Work?

 There are broad categories of awkwardness, but within these can be a myriad of different issues and problems, relating to personalities and perceptions.

There are people who persistently moan about their job, their workplace and their employer. They find fault with everything and are resistant to change. If you don’t address them, and have that difficult conversation, you risk their negativity spreading like a contagion.

Next there are bullies, who make life intolerable or miserable for others, but who might be in positions of authority themselves. Bullying is another corrosively damaging element in workplace culture.

You might have staff who are persistently and regularly dishonest. Lying can involve anything from excuses to lateness and falsifying timekeeping to theft from work.

There are people for whom work seems too stressful all the time, who worry about pretty much everything and what everyone thinks of them.

There are issues to do with poor personal hygiene, or substance and alcohol abuse, or inappropriate clothing. Some of these might seem less important than others, but all have the potential to disrupt the workplace and affect how others feel.

Addressing these issues is not something you should avoid.


Having Difficult Workplace Conversations?

What should underpin your actions are firm policies, procedures and guidelines.

Some conversations will require more sensitivity than others, depending on the individual and the issue. You must also clearly differentiate between a genuine grievance and being awkward.

Remember that the same rules that will help guide and govern how you approach your employee will also offer them a certain degree of protection.

Dodging difficult workplace conversations is not an option if you don’t want to risk lasting damage to your business.

Where you are unsure, seek professional HR advice, because while you might be best placed to deal with your core business, delegating people management to others might give you the breathing space you need.


*This blog was adapted from our interview in HR Aspects Magazine.