Helping make difficult conversations at work easier

8 July 2013

Preparation is one of the keys to making difficult conversations in the workplace easier and more constructive, according to the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Acting Fair Work Ombudsman, Michael Campbell, said most employers and workers will be part of a difficult conversation at some stage during their working lives, but there are practical steps both parties can take to make such conversations more effective at resolving problems.

“Important principles to apply in having difficult conversations include preparing what you want to say before the conversation, focusing on the issue rather than the person, considering the other person’s point-of-view and keeping emotions in check,” Mr Campbell said.

“It’s also important to avoid putting off difficult conversations, such as dealing with complaints and grievances, as most problems won’t go away by themselves.

“If difficult conversations are handled well, conflicts can be resolved more quickly, relationships at work can be improved and this can lift staff engagement and performance, creating a happier, more productive workplace.”

Handling difficult workplace conversations is the topic of the first course to be offered through the Fair Work Ombudsman’s new Online Learning Centre at

There is a self-paced course designed specifically for employers and managers and also one designed for employees.

A series of online courses will be launched on the Online Learning Centre throughout this year and next year covering a range of topics, including hiring staff, starting a new job and managing employee performance.

The online courses will contain interactive learning activities, practical scenarios and video content.

The courses take about 20-to-30 minutes to finish and can be accessed from a desktop, mobile or tablet.

Mr Campbell said the courses were part of the Fair Work Ombudsman’s commitment to make it as easy as possible for employers to operate their businesses in a fair, compliant and productive manner that benefitted both their business and their employees.

“Key industry stakeholders provided input into the development of the online learning courses to help ensure they were relevant to the issues employers and workers face,” Mr Campbell said.

Their addition to the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website complements a variety of existing tools and resources, including fact sheets, templates and best practice guides on topics such as consultation and cooperation in the workplace and dispute resolution.

Employers and employees seeking information and advice should visit or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94. A free interpreter service is available on 13 14 50.

Media inquiries:

Tom McPherson, Media & Stakeholder Relations
0439 835 855

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