difficult conversation

Learn how a coolheaded leader prevented conflict and animosity by mentoring a team member to conduct a difficult conversation with a colleague.

Spring, 2017

Meet Carol, Marketing Director in charge of several teams working in an open office. She has just hired Mark to head up product development and his enthusiasm is immediately apparent. He is obviously thrilled with his new job and shares his excitement in a very loud voice.

Early Monday morning, two weeks later

Just as Carol is about to make a call, she’s approached by Sarah, a clearly distraught junior copywriter; “Mark is driving me crazy. He is just so loud. You have to do something!”

Carol, a seasoned manager adept at working with her high-energy, millennial teams, realizes that Sarah has been fretting all weekend. Carol also understands that by moving the loud team member to another cube, she only transfers the problem to another area. No solution.

Carol knows this is not the time to be dismissive with, “Excuse me, I must make this call.” Nor is it wise to tease with smart retorts like, “Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed.”

Instead, Carol calms Sarah down, “Do you have a few minutes to talk?” She then suggests an action plan for Sarah and concludes with; “Make Mark an ally, not an enemy.”

One hour later

Sarah had considered confronting Mark but now equipped with Carol’s strategy, she heads toward his area to suggest coffee. Sarah has realized the benefits of getting to know Mark and discovers he, too, is a trained writer. They share a professional perspective.

The next morning

Sarah drops by Mark’s cube. It’s early and he is so animated and hyped about a project, he invites her to attend his debut presentation later that morning. Hmmm, still she bites her tongue.

Early afternoon

Again, Sarah stops by Mark’s cube. He is actually composed and quiet. After congratulating him for his presentation, she takes the plunge; “Can we change gears for a moment? We need to talk about something that’s important and find a solution together.”

“Sure Sarah, and thanks for making me feel so welcome.”

“Here’s the thing, Mark. The acoustics here mean noise bounces off the walls like crazy…”

“I hear you, Sarah, people joke that I’m a member of the Loud Family. Mark Loud, get it?”


Chances are, that if Carol had become involved, tension would have escalated. She coached Sarah to deal with her frustrations in a non-confrontational, meticulously choreographed approach. Sarah took time to begin to know Mark and vice versa; he was receptive when she touched on a difficult conversation.