The nation finds have difficult conversations tougher at work than at home, according to new research by Chartered Management Institute (CMI).

The research found that the toughest conversation topics are all work related, with the top three being talking about pay at work (33%), a colleague’s inappropriate behaviour (31%) and feedback on poor performance (30%).

In comparison, more personal topics such as, sex (19%), relationship break ups (17%) and money (16%) were deemed less difficult to tackle.

The workplace is not only the setting for people’s most difficult conversations, it’s also where they happen most frequently. Just over half of workers (51%) said they have to deal with a difficult conversation at work at least once a month or more.

Despite the regularity of awkward workplace exchanges, CMI’s survey found that employees and managers don’t have coping strategies. During these difficult conversations at work, half say they mumble, stutter or trip over their words, while 40 percent clam up and 41 percent let emotions take over from facts. 56 percent also admitted to taking things too personally during these exchanges.

The data also shows that knowing a difficult conversation is coming adds to stress levels and anxiety among respondents (66%). More than one in 10 (11%) say they slept badly or had nightmares in the lead up to a difficult work conversation. Despite the impact of these discussions on both leaders and the workforce, more than 80 percent say they have never had any training on how to tackle difficult conversations at work.

Managers also have difficulty handling difficult conversations with 40 percent admitting to panicking and telling a lie when faced with a tricky conversation, and 43 percent owned up to losing their temper and shouting.

Petra Wilton, director of strategy and external affairs at CMI, comments:

“Our survey findings reveal that difficult conversations are really taking their toll on workers. When it comes to our home life we often rely on friends and family to support us with tricky discussions. At work, with no advice or training, it can feel like tiptoeing through a minefield. It’s no wonder 61 percent of people told us they would like to learn how to manage workplace conversations with more confidence.”





Amie Filcher is an editorial assistant at HRreview.