We’ve all had to – or will – deal with a frustrating work situation at some point in our careers, whether it’s a noisy co-worker, an unproductive meeting, or a project gone off the rails.
As tempting as it is to storm into your boss’s office or send a passive-aggressive email to an obnoxious co-worker, thoughtless, emotional responses don’t solve the problems.
There’s a better approach to handling difficult conversations at work, says Microsoft chief marketing officer Chris Capossela, and it starts with clear, confident communication.
“Communication can be a particularly difficult skill that takes a long time to perfect, but it’s one of the most important skills you need to be successful in the workplace,” Capossela, 53, told CNBC Make It, adding that when it comes to stressful topics. , “communication can often go wrong.”
Capossela spent his 31-year career at Microsoft mastering the art of communication, even serving as a speechwriter for then-CEO Bill Gates between 1997 and 1999.
Here, he shares his top tips for navigating a difficult work conversation:
Write your thoughts in an email, but don’t hit send
Think of the “Draft” section of your inbox as your new best friend at work: a place to share your unfiltered, non-judgmental thoughts and feelings that you can review and revise later.
Before Capossela initiates or participates in a difficult work conversation, he begins with an email.
“I write all my thoughts about the situation in an email draft that I can work on and be as tight, well-written and unemotional as possible,” he says. “When people can take the time to refine what they want to say, it always goes better than if they do it verbally off the cuff.”
Once he gets the writing to be as “clear, crisp and calm” as he wants, he uses it as a script to strike up a conversation with the person(s) involved in the situation, or as a precursor to finding time to meet.
For example: if you’re asking for a late promotion, says Capossela, the final version of your script might say, “Hey boss, I’d really like to talk to you about my career progress, I’d like to know what it’s like. would take to move to the next level. I would love to meet with you and hear your thoughts on what these steps might look like. Please let me know when you are available.
Ask questions and listen
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