Thursday, March 23, 2017

Learning Bursts Part Two: Navigating Difficult Conversations with Coworkers

Whether you’re providing constructive feedback, discussing sensitive issues like dress or hygiene or simply setting the record straight on a disputed topic, difficult conversations with coworkers can be stressful!

Cathy Littlefield presents to corporate partner, Beneficial BankOn Tuesday, March 21st Peirce College equipped employees of one of its corporate partners, Beneficial Bank, with the tools needed to successfully navigate these discussions. Hosted by Peirce College’s expert facilitator, Cathy Littlefield, Ed.D., Associate Professor and Chair of Business Programs, this session represented the second topic in a four-part “Learning Bursts” series on self-improvement.

Littlefield opened the session by making a playful, yet relatable comparison between having a difficult conversation and having a meal. Just like eating requires you to set the table, have the meal and clean up, difficult conversations also have three distinct steps.

Preparing for the Conversation – “Setting the Table”
  • Check yourself – make sure you are calm and collected
  • Hold yourself accountable – acknowledge your role in the situation
  • Clarify your goals – know what you want as an outcome
  • Choose an appropriate time and place – timing and privacy matter
During a Difficult Conversation – “The Meal”
  • Focus on the facts – not gossip or perception
  • Only discuss things relevant to this specific situation
  • Be aware of your emotions; continuously "check in" with yourself
  • Make it a two way conversation – don’t dominate the conversation
After the Conversation – “Clean Up”
  • What happens in the office should stay in the office
  • Let it go – don't repeatedly have the same conversation with the same person
  • Where appropriate, document the conversation including date, situation and agreed upon outcome
Littlefield ended by noting difficult conversations break down when either participant resorts to verbal “flight” or “fight” responses. To help each participant understand his or her own unique style under stress, Littlefield provided a self-assessment. Through their responses, attendees discovered their natural tendencies and ways to counteract them in the future.

Be sure to join Littlefield and other Peirce staff members next month for the third topic of this four-part series.

Peirce College and Beneficial Bank have been valued partners since 2008. Beneficial employees, spouses and dependents are eligible for a 25% tuition discount at Peirce College. To learn more about enrolling at Peirce, please visit

For a complete list of all corporate partners, please visit If your company is not listed and you would like to be considered for partnership, please contact Amy Holvey, Manager of Corporate Enrollment at