Janine Lazarus


The harder you try to sweep awkward issues under the corporate carpet, the more attention you draw to it. And, like liquid in a simmering pressure cooker, a boiling over of emotions is inevitable.

Is it possible to master the Art of Uncomfortable Conversation?

The result is a catastrophic communications failure 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.

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

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.

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 each have 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 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, 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.

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