Most of us have had difficult conversations at work — the kind that can leave us feeling anxious and eager to forget that it ever took place. If you’re a cancer survivor, a conversation like that can make you feel even more overwhelmed as you try to balance work and health demands. But being able to effectively navigate the aftermath of a challenging exchange can ultimately generate positive long-term effects.
A recent article in the Harvard Business Review explains some steps you can take to diffuse tension while honing your skills as a problem-solver and collaborator:
- Acknowledge that the conversation happened. After a difficult conversation, most people want to brush it under the rug and forget it ever happened. An effective alternative is to proactively follow up, acknowledge it was an uncomfortable exchange and focus on any positive aspects that came out of it. There is huge value in engaging your colleague(s) after a tense discussion and not letting any hard feelings linger.
- Find ways to move the conversation forward. Don’t cut yourself out of ongoing dialogue by staying silent. Communicate your desire for shared outcomes by sending a clear and concise follow-up email. Highlight discussion points and action steps covered during the conversation in question. By initiating a follow-up conversation, you might uncover information about what generated the conflict in the first place. Following up will also help both of you to move beyond the awkward zone.
- Focus on building the long-term relationship. Remember that prioritizing healthy work relationships is the key to success. One challenging interaction shouldn’t negatively affect efforts to achieve a common goal, which requires collaboration. Investing in team-building activities such as short walks, coffee runs, casual after-work dinners and attending off-site events can help you connect with your colleagues. Learn from the past (even if it was difficult at the time), but focus on what you need to do to ensure a positive future!
Difficult conversations at work can occur with a range of colleagues, including your manager. Our Manager’s Kit is designed to help you facilitate conversations with your boss, specifically around issues relating to working with cancer.
Our upcoming webinar on Working Through Treatment is another helpful resource.
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