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Can We Talk?

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Can We Talk?

Seven Principles for Managing Difficult Conversations at Work

Kogan Page,

15 min read
9 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Avoiding tough or awkward conversations in the workplace is expensive. Learn the seven principles needed to tackle challenging topics.

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With the right intention and framework, you can transform your workplace communication challenges into meaningful, effective moments of connection, says management consultant Roberta Chinsky Matuson. While few people set out to sabotage conversations deliberately, she explains, some unintentionally communicate in ways that upset others, disrupt teams, and cost organizations time and money. Happily, Matuson’s seven-principle framework can help you navigate thorny conversations at work and muster the courage to tackle challenging topics.


Businesses lose time and money when employees avoid difficult conversations.

When you mishandle difficult workplace conversations, you can damage your business relationships and career prospects. Eschewing tough conversations won’t solve your problems: In fact, avoidance can increase team frustration levels and cost your organization dearly. According to Bravely, a workplace resource start-up, 70% of workers avoid awkward conversations with managers, co-workers and direct reports. Just a single conversation failure can cost your organization as much as $7,500 and more than seven workdays, according to research by David Maxfield and Joseph Grenny, two of the authors of Crucial Accountability

If your boss or colleague is avoiding you, critiquing your work, responding gruffly to your emails, or not responding to your communications at all, a difficult conversation may be looming. You can prepare in several ways: 

  • Choose the right location – Many workspaces today are open plan. Find a room with some degree of privacy. If possible, meet remote team members face-to...

About the Author

Roberta Chinsky Matuson is the president of Matuson Consulting, a business management consultancy, and the author of Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around.

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