(5 Suggestions for Making Difficult Conversations at Work Easier)
Read Time: 1 minute 15 seconds
Writing Time: Various
Practice Time: 10 Minutes
Learning a secret is sudden
Keeping a secret is hard
Sharing a secret is scary
But once told, 
 Incorporating a secret into daily life gets 
easier and easier
At some point in our work life we will have a secret that needs to be shared with supervisors and/or colleagues. Secrets can be the decision to leave a company, disclosing a diagnosis or disability, or sharing a family issue that affects your ability to do all or part of your job.
Living with a secret and carrying it around every day can feel like a heavy burden. But often, carrying the secret is preferable to the prospect of sharing the secret-
that’s downright scary.

These 5 steps will help you prepare to share
(File this away – you’ll need it eventually)


Make Decisions

Decide which are the most important details to discuss. Create a list of bullet points. Bullet points will help you deliver your message in a conversational manner. Avoid writing a script. Reciting a script appears contrived.

Consider what the possible reactions and objections will be to your news. Don’t leave your audience hanging-prepare answers for a positive, negative and neutral response.


It’s Not About You-It’s About Them

As a rule, people don’t like surprises. When you are disclosing difficult news choose a time and location that is comfortable for your audience. Establish a time limit and do your best to stick to that time limit. (If your audience wants to keep talking that’s their choice).

With an established time limit you have an easy exit (‘I know this came as a surprise, but I promised to take only 10 minutes. We can talk again after you have had a chance to think about my news).

Deliver. Stop. Listen. 

As you DELIVER the news pay attention to the body language of your audience. Body language indicates initial reaction and will help you (in the moment) understand how best to address your audience’s response and possible objections.

After you have delivered your news, STOP talking. Give your audience the chance to absorb what you have said (this is hard).

LISTEN to their reactions and offer more detail or an action plan. Chances are your audience will be a bit overwhelmed by your news-

HINT: this initial conversation is NOT the time to overshare.

Create a Partnership

By nature, people like to help. This is especially true if you are disclosing a diagnosis or family issue. Be prepared to offer ways for your audience to help you either overcome or get past the initial stage.

For a diagnosis, this can be a suggestion to donate to a research organization or organize a team for a fundraising event. In the case of a family issue, this may be a request to help with a short-term assignment or a recast of responsibilities. When disclosing a new job, be prepared to talk about a plan to wrap up existing work, compile a transition document, or even onboard new staff.

In all cases, your colleagues will want to know how your secret impacts their life. Be prepared with an action plan.


If you have ever played a team sport, you’ve probably heard ‘what you do in practice is what you do in the game’. These conversations are not easy. As individuals we have little experience in this area.

When planning for a difficult conversation, what you say in front of the mirror is what you’ll say in the moment.

 So practice, practice a lot!

I’d love to hear if these ideas were helpful.
Drop a line and let me know

Until next month…