Run an effective conversation before your employee sets on leave

While managing extended leaves you will likely need to run many important and difficult conversations. Get inspired on how to do that with our templates and tips.

While managing returners you will likely need to run a number of important conversations including one when you first find out they want to take leave, when they communicate to you that they plan to return to work and after their ramp up period to make sure they are motivated and on track with their career development. Let’s start with tips for how to run a conversation before they go on leave.

Starting the conversation: what to say if your employee is expecting a child

First, congratulate them and ask how he/she feels about it? Here are some of the useful questions you might ask:

      1. What are you mostly excited about?
      2. What are your main fears?
      3. Do you have any special needs?
      4. Move on to the details of your company’s and country maternity leave policy:
        • make sure she’s clear on what the maternity leave policy is, where the details are located and what the terms of the policy are.
        • discuss how she will handle her doctor appointments: is she free to attend them as needed within the working hours?

Starting the conversation: what to say if your team member is in a difficult personal situation

There are many situations that may be particularly difficult and stressful for a person in your team, such as: sickness, serious medical condition of their closest family members, divorce, death etc.

If that happens, empathize with them. You may say:

      1. I’m really sorry to hear that. It must be very difficult for you. I cannot even imagine what you might be going through.
      2. Do you have any special needs? How can I support you in this situation?
      3. Move on to the details of your company and country specific leave policies

3 elements of an effective conversation – Listen, speak effectively and manage emotions

There are 3 key elements that will help you run an effective conversation: active listening, effective communication of yours and business needs, learning how to manage emotions.

1. Active listening

In order to listen effectively, be aware of listening barriers like advising others and defending your own opinion. Try to avoid them by focusing on understanding what the person is trying to say or what challenge they have. You can achieve it by:

        • using the paraphrases – use your own words to make a summary of the key points from the whole conversation. “From what I’m hearing you wish to work hard towards promotion before you go for maternity leave as it will give you a sense of achievement, am I right?”
        • paying attention to the body language and paraphrase things you’ve noticed: “We’ve just both agreed that you’re going to lead a project you’ve always wanted to run but I can see a worried look on your face. What bothers you? ”

Ask powerful questions to get a better sense of a challenge they’re having by asking:

      1. How does it look from your point of view?
      2. How do you feel about it?
      3. What do you need right now?
      4. What do you want me to do to support you now?

2. Effective communication

Effectively communicate your point of view and your needs: Once you understood the main challenge and need of your employee make sure you communicate your needs in an effective way using the following scheme: 

 When [your point of view or description of situation that triggers difficult emotions] I felt [your emotions], because [your needs or goals] are really important to me / to my team / to company. I would need now [your needs]  could we agree [proposal of rational action].

EXAMPLE: When you’re asking me to work from home for 3 days a week before your maternity leave, I feel worried that you won’t be able to take part in all the handover meetings with teammates and clients. It’s important to me that we still deliver high quality support to our clients and I need be sure that you spent as much time as possible with people who are going to take over your responsibilities. Would it work if you work from home 1 day now for the next 2 months and then we can extend it to 2 days a month closer to your leave?”

3. Managing emotions

When an employee is crying during the conversation let them be in this state for a few minutes and just pause handing them a tissue if possible. 

After 2-3 minutes say:

        • What have you just realized? What have you just become aware of?
        • How I can support you best?