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Lynne Cunningham describes three models for conversations full of difficulties. One of the significant criteria for having a conversation is to be a good listener as people tend to listen more than 40% of the time (1). However, there are specific models for softening the problematic conversation and achieving communicative success.
Developed by Beth Keane, this model includes four elements: describing behavior, describing impact, identifying the desired change, and receiving a commission. For example, the chief asked their employee, Jack, to comply with the monthly report. Jack was continually irritating him with questions; however, he did not manage to cope with the task in time. If the director wants to avoid the reoccurrence of the situation, they need to influence their employee. In this case, the chief may say impactful phrases. For instance, “Jack, when you ask me dozens of questions about the report, I feel like I deal with the task by myself. I need you to learn how to comply with your assignments. Do you agree you can do it?”
Stub Your Toe or Cup of Coffee Conversations
The second model, Stub Your Toe or Cup of Coffee Conversations, was first introduced for communicating with the physicians; however, it further entered different spheres of activities. Typically, this model is used when the director or colleagues see someone’s behavior change that contradicts performance standards. Therefore, Cup of Coffee aims to point out the inconsistent behavioral characteristics. One needs to start by approaching a colleague or employee and pointing out their value for the company. It is then necessary to state their change in demeanor and have a coffee cup with them (2). This model can be implemented in the following situation: Mary’s chief, Sarah, notices her being late to work and looking frustrated during the working hours, reflecting upon her everyday duties. Therefore, Sarah decides to approach Mary in the cafeteria with a cup of coffee. She may say: “Mary, you are an incredible worker, and I was impressed that you were chosen as the best employee last month. But I heard you were sometimes late to your workplace this week, and it concerns me.” Then the director is supposed to pause and take a sip of coffee to get Mary’s reaction. Mary is likely to appreciate this attention and explain why she was late.
Low Performer Conversations
The third conversational pattern is used for the employees with a constant demonstration of derogatory behaviour, especially for those who violate the company’s rules and policies. For example, the director should start a conversation on a professional note with a serious tone to address the poor performance (3). Typically, the DESK (describe, evaluate, show, know) approach is implemented while working with difficult employees. For instance, Josh, a manager in a broker company, comes to the office at 10 am and leaves whenever he wants to. Even though the working day lasts till 5 pm, Josh always finds excuses to leave earlier or leaves voluntarily. Here is how the chief may use the DESK model: “Josh, I saw you leaving your workplace earlier than 5 pm, and I feel concerned that you violate the company’s standards. I believe the end of the shift cannot be moved, so all you have to do is to work your hours. Otherwise, such behaviour may lead to firing.”
Cunningham L. Difficult conversations: Three models for your leadership toolkit [Internet]. Pensacola: Studer Group; [cited 2020]. Web.
Three performance conversations [Internet]. Silver Lake: Entelechy; [cited 2020]. Web.
Johnston F, Beckman M. Navigating difficult conversations. J Surg Onc. 2019;120(1):23-29.