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Train Managers to Handle Difficult Conversations

Get managers to stop avoiding, freezing, or giving in when the going gets tough.

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  • Judy Ringer, Conflict & Communications Specialist, Author, and Coach, Power and Presence Training
  • Craig Dowden (Ph.D.), Managing Director, SPBOrganizational Psychology
  • Caroline Williams, Director of Education and Learning, Spark Training and Coaching Associates Inc.
  • James A. Whyte, Owner, Sebastian Group Ltd.
  • Manager, Learning & Organizational Development, Engineering Consulting
  • Jodie Barley, Talent Acquisition Specialist, Info-Tech Research Group
  • Beth Collins-Kelly, Human Resources Generalist, Info-Tech Research Group
  • Ashley McFarlane, Info-Tech Research Group
  • Jenny Tennebaum, The HIROC Group
  • Jennifer Heikamp, The Regional Municipality of York
  • Diane A. Ross, Difficult Conversations Expert, Author, and Speaker, Elephant Conversations Ltd

Your Challenge

  • Difficult conversations can be hard to approach as they cover workplace conflicts and topics such as delivering bad news, apologizing, asking for something, and discussing sensitive subjects.
  • Managers, like the rest of employees, avoid these difficult conversations because they do not have the confidence, experience, or methodology to approach them effectively and with confidence.
  • When managers avoid difficult conversations they negatively impact employee productivity and engagement, they take up time from the human resources department, and they can cost the organization thousands of dollars.

Our Advice

Critical Insight

  • When managers avoid difficult conversations, they are not fully carrying out their role as an employee with people responsibilities who is required to communicate to get things done.
  • Getting managers to start facing difficult conversations and handling them effectively starts off with training and continues after the session is over with support from peers, HR, and the organization.
  • The McLean & Company Difficult Conversations E.A.S.E. framework can help managers through a challenging conversation by guiding them through the appropriate pre-work, engaging the employee in conversation, absorbing the employee’s point of view, sharing their own perspective, and ending the conversation with actionable next steps and follow-up.

Impact and Result

  • Decrease managers’ avoidance of difficult conversations and get them to stop freezing, and giving in when it comes to facing them.
  • Increase managers' success rate with handling a difficult conversation.
  • Free up time for HR that can be spent on more value added activities that positively impact the organization.
  • Save the organization on the costs from avoidance which can range from $100 to $50,000 dollars per conversation depending on the topic!

Research & Tools

1. Understand how the McLean & Company Manager Training works

Make the case for training, prepare for training, and evaluate results after the session is over.

2. Gain stakeholder buy-in

Get approval for training to be implemented.

3. Prepare to implement training

Ensure that the who, what, where, and when for the training session is planned out, as well as what metrics will be used to track success.

4. Implement manager training

Provide managers with training content, the difficult conversations E.A.S.E. framework, brainstorming activities, and role play exercises to facilitate knowledge transfer.

5. Provide managers with a takeaway toolkit

Support managers facing difficult conversations with a comprehensive guide that they can have at their desk.

6. Follow up with managers after training

Evaluate managers’ reaction to the training session, their learning of the training content, behavioral change, and the impact of this on benchmarks.

Guided Implementations

This guided implementation is a three call advisory process.

Call #1 - Prepare for stakeholder buy-in

Our advisers will discuss issues and concerns with getting stakeholder buy-in and what measurements you can use to track the impact of training on the business.

Call #2 - Prepare for training implementation

We will review how to optimize and customize the training deck, logistics planning, and benchmarking to help you prepare for training.

Call #3 - Measure and evaluate the impact of the training session

Our analysts with discuss results and evaluations of the training session, and how they can be used towards optimizing future sessions and manager development.

Onsite Workshop

Discuss This Workshop

Book Your Workshop

Onsite workshops offer an easy way to accelerate your project. If you are unable to do the project yourself, and a Guided Implementation isn't enough, we offer low-cost onsite delivery of our project workshops. We take you through every phase of your project and ensure that you have a roadmap in place to complete your project successfully.

Module 1: Mastering Difficult Conversations Skills and Techniques

The Purpose

  • Identify problem areas when having a difficult conversation
  • Review Difficult Conversations Framework
  • Review supporting skills
  • Practice

Key Benefits Achieved

  • Understanding of how to address a difficult conversation
  • Understanding of how to use skills to optimize approach to a difficult conversation




Assess difficult conversations skills

  • Understand difficult conversations personal strengths and weaknesses

Identify good and bad difficult conversations practices

  • Understanding of difficult conversations skills and techniques in practice

Understand emotional intelligence

  • How to use emotional intelligence to effectively handle a difficult conversation

Assess dominant conflict style

  • Which conflict styles work best in a given difficult conversation situation

Module 2: Difficult Conversations Role Play Scenarios

The Purpose

  • Practice difficult conversations skills and techniques

Key Benefits Achieved

  • Increased confidence when handling a difficult conversation outside of training
  • Increased probability of using difficult conversations skills and techniques outside of training




Brainstorm and role play delivering bad news

  • Use of skills and techniques in action

Brainstorm and role play asking for something

  • List of common difficult conversation scenarios

Brainstorm and role play apologizing

  • Coverage of how to address different types of scenarios

Role play discussing sensitive subjects

Search Code: 74516
Published: March 21, 2014
Last Revised: March 21, 2014