Event review: Managing difficult conversations at work

On 13 November, we were joined by Members, Partners and guest speakers Tony Cates, Head of Audit, KPMG UK, Aisling Tuft, Recoveries Manager, Enterprise and Alastair Campbell, writer and political commentator at the launch of our new guide on ‘Managing difficult conversations’ at work.

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The event was hosted by KPMG and Stephen Frost, Head of Diversity & Inclusion explained that KPMG had sponsored the guide because they understood that being able to manage difficult conversations is fundamental to building and deepening business relationships both internally and externally.

016Our chair for the evening, Business Disability Forum (BDF) Associate Phil Friend OBE, suggested that conversations about bereavement, divorce, poor performance are challenging enough, but when you add disability or potential mental ill health into the mix the thought can scare even the most experienced line manager.

BDF Chief Executive Officer Susan Scott-Parker OBE explained that the guide was developed after we identified a need for up-skilling line managers to have honest and meaningful conversations with their teams. BDF’s aim is to get the practical tool into the hands of 4.5 million employees who work for our Members and to stimulate an ongoing interest in face to face training on the subject.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur panel found the guide useful in:

  • Providing constructive feedback during tricky conversations
  • Reminding managers that in spite of busy workloads sometimes setting aside the time for a difficult conversation and giving people time to speak in their own words will reap business rewards
  • Helping people to effectively prepare for difficult business discussions with people both inside and outside the organisation

The other recurring theme of the evening was how to have conversations about mental ill health at work. Alastair Campbell spoke openly about his own mental illness and the value of working with employers including the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair who understand the importance of judging employees on the wider performance and not on mental health episodes.

This advice was backed up by employers like KPMG and Deloitte who have supported directors and senior partners in openly talking about periods of mental ill health and recovery. This newfound openness has interested the business press who are starting to proactively report on positive examples of mental ill health at a senior level.

We left the event feeling that our guidance and the commitment of our Members in raising awareness of mental ill health at work, was contributing to a bigger conversation and a sea change in how we manage difficult conversations at work.

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