Blended Leadership: How to Have a Difficult Conversation with a Coworker

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An HR business partner, Mary, and I were recently strategizing how she’d approach a difficult conversation with a coworker. As we were wrapping up, she said to me, “I appreciate how you are always kind.”

I was both touched by her words and a little confused. “Is it that unusual?” I asked.

“You’re the first HR person I’ve worked for who can balance difficult feedback with support and compassion,” she said. “A former coworker told me I needed to disconnect from people at work.”

As an HR leader, this advice—to a fellow HR person, no less—initially struck me as odd.

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