Janine Lazarus

JANINE LAZARUS on why it’s so important to tackle them head on

The proverbial elephant in the room takes up more space at each workshop I facilitate, with delegates doing their best to side step and steer clear of unpalatable subject matters, but the harder they try to sweep awkward issues under the corporate carpet, the more attention they draw to it. And, like liquid in a simmering pressure cooker, a boiling over of emotions is pretty much inevitable.

Is it possible to master the Art of Uncomfortable Conversation?

The result is a catastrophic communications failure of the kind that creeps like a cancer through the corridors and spills out into the public arena. We live in politically charged, unpredictable and self-serving times. This, coupled with a diversity of cultures, values and beliefs, a melting pot of egos and unpredictable behaviour patterns, can be a recipe for disaster for any business.

So, how do you handle Disruptive Dialogue in the workplace? Is it possible to master the Art of Uncomfortable Conversation?

Every client is as unique as their business offering. It’s what makes my job in communications so exciting as I encounter as many personality types. Given the varied characters and business approaches, there cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution to communication issues.

When people work collectively in a department, there is bound to be some sort of confrontation. Some may become aggressive, while others may keep their feelings to themselves, only to explode a few months later. Then there are the silent types: those individuals who internalise their thoughts and feelings, and just shut down.

Well-meaning team work activity conducted outside the office may seem like fun, but for some individuals it can be too much of an ask. Forcing employees to take part in an off-site physical activity may not be the magic cure-all to forming a cohesive team.

Take me. I’m a straight shooter and can generally navigate around most conversations, but ask me to participate in team work activity and I withdraw. It’s not my shtick and I am horribly uncomfortable around it.

Individuals are exactly that – individuals. Each with their own hopes, dreams and fears of failure. Is there some way to expect these individuals to work together as a team towards one common purpose?

Having facilitated communication-related programmes to individuals, groups, interns and C-suites, I can tell you this: Avoiding uncomfortable conversation will result in massive barriers to communication and ultimately insurmountable obstacles for any business.

Trying to tip toe around the ‘egg shells’ of transformation, a clash of cultures and the fear of change, has the diametrically opposite result of what may have been initially well intended.  It can cost an organisation dearly in the long run.

Think along the lines of project failures, absence from work, a decrease in productivity and a high staff turnover – all of which impact on the organisation’s bottom line. My beloved late mother lived by this simple adage: Face the demon and you reduce its size.

You must be courageous enough to have uncomfortable conversations in the work place. Constructive pivotal conversations are necessary to bring about much needed change. Yes, it can be painful. But dealing with evasion can be even worse.

How many hours a week does your company spend dealing with conflict and internal politics? What are you doing to change or prevent an adverse situation? Are you tackling Disruptive Dialogue head-on?

Simon Sinek, the author best known for Start With Why said: “When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.” – Janine Lazarus is the Director of the Janine Lazarus Media Consultancy