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Durham University

Organisation Development

Having difficult conversations


This course provides you with practical and effective techniques to conduct and manage difficult conversations with staff. The focus of the workshop is placed on challenging conversations and their implications.

One of the most challenging parts of managing conduct and performance is initiating conversations around sensitive topics. Being able to tackle contentious issues in a balanced, calm and consistent way is a valued skill in all areas of working life. In a workplace context these skills can help promote productive and engaged teams and a better managed workforce. Managers who avoid difficult conversations risk undermining their own position and potentially losing credibility with staff.

The course covers ways of addressing sensitive subject matters like bullying, emotional issues, resistance to criticism and poor performance. It briefly reflects on conflict at work and individual styles to address conflict.

Immerse yourself in a safe environment where you will get hands on experience of how to manage discussion around a range of awkward subjects including personality clashes, attendance, capability, behaviours, conduct and even sensitive domestic issues.


Conflict – causes, effects, opportunities, “your style”

Face the problem:
· What is a difficult conversation?
· When should I speak to the employee?
Prepare and plan in advance:
· Gather information
· Check your policies
· Think about your approach and the outcome
Communication skills you will need:
· Keeping in control
· Questioning and listening skills
Techniques you can use:
· Body language and rapport
Structure the conversation:
· Preparation, Hold the conversation, Solutions, follow up action and support

Practical skills discussion and “table time”

Who is this course suitable for?

Team leaders or managers, heads of department, supervisors and those who wish to refresh their workplace communication skills.


Ian Mastaglio, Training Manager from ACAS will deliver this online workshop via the digital platform Zoom. An invite will be sent out prior to the session.

Which of the Job Family Core Skills are supported by this session?

Which of the Realising Your Potential Approach Behaviours are supported by this course?