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Once upon a time, Britain used to be called a nation of shopkeepers. That’s not really true nowadays, but we are a nation of small business owners. And one of the great things about these organisations is that everyone knows each other, and there’s a real sense of camaraderie where you’re all pulling together towards the same goals.

However, what if you need to have a difficult conversation with someone else in the organisation that you’ve known for years – a friend or family member even – over their performance?

The dreaded ‘I like the person but’ syndrome is never easy to deal with, but in this type of workplace, it can be really difficult to get right as it can cause ructions and shake the foundations of the organisation. Things often get personal as people will take sides and have an opinion about what’s happening, even if they’re not aware of all the facts.

It’s perfectly natural to be scared of having this talk. Human nature is to avoid what we’re uncomfortable with. But you’re going to have to face it eventually, and it’s usually better sooner rather than later. Don’t just dive in though – take a more measured approach and pitch it as a two-way conversation where you’d like their take on the situation.

First you need to find out why their performance has dipped. Maybe they’re not challenged enough, or they’ve simply taken their foot off the gas because they’ve been doing the job for so long. It could be due to outside reasons, like family issues or illness.

Occasionally though, it can be a case of the company outgrowing the person.  Their behaviours no longer fit with the values of the organisation, and how they get to their final output isn’t what’s expected today. Expectations change really, really quickly in today’s fast-paced organisations and people need to be able to adapt at the same rate.

That’s when the difficult conversation needs to happen. Can they keep up? Would their skills be better used elsewhere in the organisation? Are they going to have to be replaced?

What’s needed here is to turn the difficult conversation into a coaching conversation to encourage behavioural change. People can be trained to deal with other fast changes in organisations, like technology, so what’s stopping them from understanding how to alter behaviours? Usually, it’s an attitude or a mind-set, which can be overcome.

It’s important to remember that, although you need a serious conversation with them, you can still like the person. It doesn’t need to affect your relationship with them or anyone else in the organisation. You’re doing your job and dealing with the issue professionally, as they’d expect you to.

Looking at whether people can keep up with the pace of change will help future-proof your organisation so you’ll have the right people in place ready. And that could mean you’ll hopefully face fewer of those difficult conversations.