Tough Talks Book Series

Avoiding a Tough Talk at Work?

Are you facing a difficult conversation at work?  Are you putting it off, hoping the situation will solve itself?   That’s not a good management strategy.   Here are 4  problems I’ve identified that commonly occur when tough talks are avoided:

  1. In the absence of information, rumors will always fill the vacuum.
  2. Doubts about the economy turn into fears; fears, into rumors; rumors, into mental paralysis; mental paralysis, into lost productivity.
  3. Resentments can build when tough talks are put on hold.
  4. The person who must deliver the tough talk builds an emotional barrier, which does not help anyone in the long run.

If you are facing a difficult conversation, begin to get clarity about it. Figure out what you want to accomplish, think through all your options, …

Posted by Jean Palmer Heck in Difficult conversations. Leave a Comment

A Performance Review for George Clooney

See this blog post as a prezi video.

George Clooney got a dose of bad news the other night. And he got it in front of more than 40 million people who tuned in to watch the Oscars. Nominated for ‘best actor’ for his performance as a consultant who fires people in “Up in the Air,” he lost to Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart.”

I thought his performance review was ironic, in light of the character he played.  It was his character’s job to deliver bad news for bosses who were too chicken to do it themselves. He’d give the bad news, pack his bags, and go on with his life, seemingly unaffected.

Granted, Clooney is an actor whom we want to watch work. I …

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Bad News in the Elevator

I just visited my ob/gyn for a regular check up. As I was leaving and getting on the elevator, a young couple came out of the office, fighting back tears. Their grim faces said it all: they had just received bad news. My guess was that they had already had a lengthy discussion with the physician, had already spilled many tears, and were on their way home or back to work.

It broke my heart  to be a ‘visitor’ of their pain–even for the brief 30 second trip. They were so evidently stunned, shaken and sad as a result of their tough talk. I honored them with silence during the ride.  When the elevator reached the ground floor, I sent a silent prayer their way, …

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Oscar Nominated Movies Focus on Firing People

It seems like Hollywood has been following the same theme I have this past year–researching and creating works that focus on tough talks.  As I wrote in a previous blog, and in several op-ed pieces, “Up in the Air” with George Clooney (both Clooney and the movie are Oscar-nominated) focuses on the tough talks that accompany job losses. He was a hatchet man who flew all over the country delivering the bad news.

I just saw a clip from another movie that involves difficult conversations–“The Messenger,” starring Woody Harrelson (Oscar nominated) and Ben Foster.  “The Messenger” focuses on what would be my worst nightmare–notification of a the death of a loved one in the armed forces.  Having a son who has returned safely from 2 …

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George Clooney’s lessons

A few weeks ago  I saw Up in the Air, with George Clooney as a ‘hatchet man,’ whose career is delivering tough talks to people, letting them know their jobs have been terminated. He travels around the country filling in for bosses who don’t have the skills needed to ‘let people go.’ As charming as George Clooney is, his character is not a nice man.  Sure he looks good, has an efficient system for firing people, but he is more interested in getting frequent flyer miles than having his own real relationships.

George Clooney’s character, and the company he works for, is necessary because many bosses don’t know how to deliver tough talks–and they don’t want to.

While Clooney’s script has him saying most of …

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How Do You Motivate Employees During Tough Times?

Is the economy rebounding? Who knows? One source says it is returning to normal. And then the numbers prove otherwise. In any case, the need to motivate employees in these tough times continues. Do you have examples of your company’s motivation efforts?  If so, I’d like to hear them.

Gary Hall of Cattron Theimeg Inc. wrote:

“With all the layoffs and furloughs that are taking place due to business conditions, the employees are being left to bare the burden. Too many companies these days take employees for granted. I like to send people home unexpectedly with pay, even if is just a few hours. (Especially on) a nice Friday afternoon. I do this for hourly as well as salaried employees. The unexpected action is the …

Posted by Jean Palmer Heck in Difficult conversations, Motivating people. Leave a Comment

Tell Your Story

Please tell us your experience with a tough talk.  Were you on the receiving end or did you have to deliver it?  What happened?  How did you and the other parties feel about it?  Is there any advice you have?

Posted by Jean Palmer Heck in Public speaking. Leave a Comment

what bosses need

A day hasn’t gone by in the recent past without dire economic news. Layoffs had to take place, employees you’ve come to know as family have had to be let go, salaries have had to be cut back or frozen.

How do you deliver bad news? There has to be some formula for that. But it wasn’t anything they taught you in business school.

How do you motivate existing employees? When they’re shell-shocked, productivity plummets.

And what about the physical and psychological ramifications of your words? On your employees?


Jean Palmer Heck has been an international communications advisor to leaders from 32 countries. She’s taken her skills as a strategist, TV news anchor and corporate spokesperson…and her connections with top-level executives…to analyze the

Posted by Jean Palmer Heck in Difficult conversations. Leave a Comment