How to have awkward chats as a line manager?

Do you need to have an awkward chat with an employee, but unsure where, and how to begin?

Whether it’s about addressing decreased performance or inappropriate comments, the burden largely of having the awkward conversation falls on the individuals line manager. It may seem awkward or uncomfortable at first, but addressing matters with the individual can have many benefits. 

In this article, we’ll explore how best to approach having difficult conversations with employees, especially those which may carry an element of risk. With a step-by-step guide, you as a line manager can address many of the workplace issues through a conversation, and help to create a much more positive, and healthier working environment.

What are difficult conversations?

In a workplace, a difficult conversation is one in which you have to manage both emotions and information in a sensitive way in order to deal with an issue.

The most common types of conversations that tend to be a cause of concern for both line managers and business are:

  • Decreased employee performance
  • Inappropriate behaviour
  • Complaints and grievances
  • Addressing conflicts
  • An employee not adhering to the values and policies at their workplace

Why are difficult conversations so important?

As humans, we tend to avoid hard to handle conversations both in our personal and work lives. However, not being able to deal with a difficult issue head on can end up creating an environment of dread and anxiety. 

As a manager there are two reasons to embrace difficult conversations. First, they set the tone that there is nothing we can’t discuss and/or handle together. Second, difficult conversations set the foundation for an honest and open work environment that thrives on focusing on the goals, not the problems.

That’s why it’s so important to learn, and follow, the proper steps to having difficult conversations with your colleagues. If your business has an HR team and/or HR policies in place make sure you consult them to ensure you are following the correct HR procedure to have any conversation necessary. HR professionals are on hand to guide managers on how to have any difficult conversation while keeping with HR’s core principles: empathy, discretion and professionalism.

In the next few sections, we’ll outline what to do before, during and after your conversations and how you can ensure these conversations go as smoothly as possible and you achieve an outcome which addresses the issues but more importantly ensures that corrective measures are in place going forward.

Before the conversation

Schedule plenty of time for the conversation, and prepare what you are going to say. Allow for breaks to gather and reflect on your thoughts and approach.

Points to think about prior to your conversation:

  • Check your facts and gather relevant documents. This is also a good time to review any relevant Company policies or rules that concern the situation, liaise with the HR Department in your business to ensure you are following the procedure correctly.
  • Take a moment to try to see the situation from your employee’s perspective. Proceed with an open mind and empathy. It is important to not make any definitive assumptions.
  • What outcome do you want? What possible solutions can you propose to resolve the matter?

During the conversation

Beyond the prep work, there’s a lot you can do to make sure you’re setting yourself, and your employee, up for success.

Here are a few tips on how to achieve the most out of your difficult conversation:

  • State the issues and provide examples. State the impact that the problem may be having on the wider team and the business.
  • Show you care. Put aside your view and let the employee explain their side of the story.
  • Confirm and clarify your understanding of what they have said and validate them where appropriate.
  • Reassess your position. Take this chance to clarify your position without minimising theirs. Has your position changed based on the information they provided?
  • Work with the employee to develop solutions and together agree on a way forward.

After the conversation

Take some time, and debrief HR and/or a senior manager. At this stage share your thoughts too. 

Most importantly, it is vital to note from a both ethical and confidentiality point of view, that the matter is not discussed with any other employees.

It is important to follow up with the employee after a difficult conversation has taken place, this reassures them that you are there to provide support and guidance as. Some pointers to keep in mind may include:

  • Taking a one-to-one moment to tell your employee that you appreciated the conversation you both just had.
  • In the days that follow, offer your employee the chance to ask any follow up questions, or continue the discussion if needed.
  • Celebrate positive progress promptly, to keep them both focused and motivated. Don’t let their hard work go unnoticed.

Creating a culture at the workplace where all categories of feedback are welcomed is not easy, but the resulting accountability drives dedication and willpower within the team that wouldn’t otherwise be realised.

Reshape HR is here to assist. We work with a variety of clients based across the UK, so if you are looking for HR or Payroll support or simply looking to run something past us, please do get in touch with us via:
T: 0141 471 5510
E: info@reshapehr.com
W: reshapehr.com


Mental Health at the Workplace

While mental health in the workplace has become a hot topic in recent years, there’s no doubt some stigma still exists around discussing mental health in a professional setting. With the ongoing effects of the pandemic, increased remote working and blurring of lines between home and work life, addressing mental health in the workplace has become increasingly difficult.

Positive mental health at work helps us flourish in our roles, manage stress and improve our resilience. In the long run, it allows us to reach our highest potential.

What is causing the increase of mental health issues in the workplace?

  1. There are many factors to consider including the impact of the lockdown.
  2. Some employees will be anxious about their family and friends.
  3. Many will have suffered bereavements, often without the chance to say goodbye or attend funerals.
  4. Fears about job security, returning to the workplace (including using public transport for commuting) and financial concerns.

However, there are still many other work-related factors that can harm mental health, such as excessive workload, financial difficulties, poor communication and workplace bullying.

Survey (see appendix 1)

A survey of employees from 129 UK businesses carried out by Wildgoose, which is a team building and virtual events business, discovered that:

  • Two in three people experienced worse mental health at work over the last year, compared to the previous.
  • One in three employees feel less able to raise mental health concerns during remote meetings.
  • 86% of employees feel that their workplace is not a safe environment for employees to be open about mental health concerns.

What can businesses do to support employees with their mental health?

It starts with knowing the signs of mental health. Even with a healthy work culture in place, some employees may struggle with underlying mental health conditions, with or without the added stress of the pandemic.

It’s easy to miss some of the early warning signs of mental illness in the workplace. Common signs that you should look out for are:

  • Long-lasting sadness or irritability
  • Extremely high and/or low moods
  • Excessive fear, worry, or anxiety
  • Social withdrawal
  • Dramatic changes in eating and/or sleeping habits

Communicate more than you think you need to

Meet with employees often to check-in, not just regarding work, but also on how they are doing in general.

By simply asking an employee, if there’s anything that they need can be extremely impactful in showing you care, especially for employees who are more reluctant to ask for help. 

Make sure you always keep your team informed about any business changes or guideline updates. Additionally, you can set expectations on workloads or projects and recognise that things may slide from time to time, but it’s how you manage these together as a team.

Make your team aware of mental health resources and encourage them to use them. Be aware that shame and stigma prevent many employees from using mental health benefits to seek treatment, so normalise the use of those services.

Encourage team support

An important part of a healthy work environment is a team that supports one another. As a line manager, encouraging working together as a team and participating in group exercises to de-stress can prove beneficial.

To help employees feel connected while they are physically distanced i.e., working from home, you can organise team-building activities for virtual socialisation, such as:

  • Trivia/game night
  • Group fitness classes
  • Virtual happy hour
  • Video show and tell
  • Book clubs

Both businesses and line managers need to make it clear that discussing mental health is important and nothing to be ashamed of. You should communicate that talking about mental health will lead to support and not discrimination. This could be achieved through normalising conversation around mental health in the workplace and actively encouraging discussion.

If you think your own mental health may be affecting your work, reach out to your line manager or HR team who will then be able to assist you further. You’re more likely to feel better knowing that you have a support group around you who can assist you.

If you would like to know more or take part in mental health events, take a look at our previous blog post on Mental Health Awareness Week for more information and resources.

Reshape HR is here to assist. We work with a variety of clients based across the UK, so if you are looking for HR or Payroll support or simply looking to run something past us, please do get in touch with us via:

T: 0141 471 5510
E: info@reshapehr.com
W: reshapehr.com 

Appendix 1:

Within the finance industry:The hospitality industry:The communications sector – marketing, advertising and PR – saw the greatest impacts from the decline of social contact:
  68% of employees had experienced increasingly poor mental health at work over the last year

Mental health absences were far higher in the financial services than others      
64% increase in reported poor mental health in the last 12 months.

100% of respondents to the survey agree that they don’t receive enough support.

32% of employees feel comfortable raising mental health concerns.  
Two in five employees surveyed feel less able to raise mental health issues during remote meetings (despite nine in ten companies having a process in place for remote employees to raise their concerns).

34% feel that a lack of in-person socialising makes mental health concerns harder to spot.  

Long Covid and its Impact

What is Long Covid?

For many people, Covid-19 is a short and mild illness, usually lasting anything from one to two weeks.

However, for others, symptoms can persist and weaken their ability to go about their daily routine, sometimes for weeks or even months. This is known as “long Covid” and refers to the ongoing symptoms and effects of Covid-19 experienced by some people following their initial diagnosis.

Common symptoms may include:

  • Persistent fatigue
  • Shortness of breath and difficulty in breathing
  • Brain fog (cognitive challenges)
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Long Covid and its effects may be more prevalent than you think. Therefore, it is very important for businesses and HR Departments to be aware of its possible impact on their workforce, and having relevant HR wellbeing policies in place which demonstrates support to the workforce. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that as of 6 January 2022, an estimated 1.3 million people (1.9% of the UK population) were experiencing self-reported long Covid:

  • One in five people experience symptoms lasting between 5 and 12 weeks.
  • One in ten people experience symptoms after 12 weeks or longer.

Supporting employees with long Covid:

Recovering from long Covid can be a lengthy process and thus it is important for businesses to be mindful of this and both assist and support their employees through this ongoing process.

Line managers can support staff members with long Covid at the workplace by:

  • Having regular wellbeing conversations to see how individuals are feeling
  • Reviewing appropriate level of work or things such reasonable adjustments and/or phased return to work, whilst they focus on their recovery
  • Providing access to wellbeing services such as an Employee Assistant programme (EAP)

What can you do as a business?

To help line managers to support employees best when working with long Covid, we recommend that businesses:

  • Provide guidance and training to increase line managers’ understanding and awareness of long Covid and especially how it impacts an individual’s health and their role
  • Train line managers on how to have effective conversations with employees returning to work following a sickness absence
  • Create a safe environment for open communication. Disclosing information about a disability or chronic illness, such as long Covid, may be intimidating for employees and can potentially result in a formal complaint. However, as a business if you have a more honest and transparent approach, it shows to the individual that the business is there to support them through the difficult times.

Structuring your team for support

There are a number of things which a team can do to support their fellow colleagues return to the workplace, and as a business you can aid this by:

  • Providing access to education and group training to help with understanding and recognising long Covid and its impact on individuals.
  • Prioritising wellbeing at work among the team through regular check-ins, and placing wellbeing on the team meeting agenda throughout the year.
  • Monitoring workload to ensure that absences or other reasonable adjustments do not affect the rest of the team, and therefore departments have the capacity and resources to provide compassionate and practical support to employees with long Covid.

Although recovery from Covid-19 can be long, many people improve with time, and treatments are improving as more is researched and known. Returning to work is part of the recovery process and may be a starting point for most individuals.

Failing to acknowledge or effectively manage an employee suffering with long Covid symptoms could leave an employer with a possible employment tribunal case, so it is crucial businesses invest in ways to support staff with long-term health problems, as well as becoming more involved in promoting healthy lifestyles in general.

Our recent article regarding Employment Law updates which came into effect in April 2022 provides guidance on statutory sick pay and other relevant employment law updates to ensure that you and your business remains compliant from a legal perspective and steer clear of any potential employment tribunal cases.

Reshape HR is here to assist. We work with a variety of clients based across the UK, so if you are looking for HR or Payroll support or simply looking to run something past us, please do get in touch with us via:

T: 0141 471 5510
E: info@reshapehr.com
W: reshapehr.com


Mental Health Awareness Week


Mental Health Awareness Week is celebrated globally on an annual basis. It seeks to inspire action to promote the message of good mental health for everyone. 

This event is hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, who have been both organising and hosting Mental Health Awareness Week for the last twenty-one years.

This year the Mental Health Awareness Week will take place from the 9th – 15th of May 2022


For 2022, the theme is “Loneliness”, which focuses on the impact of loneliness on our mental wellbeing and what steps we can undertake to reduce it.

According to www.mentalhealth.org.uk “Our connection to other people and our community is fundamental to protecting our mental health and we need to find better ways of tackling the epidemic of loneliness”. 

Mind.org.uk suggest that “Feeling lonely isn’t in itself a mental health problem but the two are strongly linked. Having a mental health problem can increase your chance of feeling lonely”. 

What causes loneliness?

There are many causes that can vary from person to person, depending on their experiences or what they are experiencing at the time. For some it can be certain life events such as:

  • Experiencing a loss of a family member or friend
  • Retiring and losing the social contact which you had at work
  • Changing jobs and feeling isolated from your co-workers
  • Moving to a new area or country without family, friends or community networks
  • Starting at university or college
  • Being unable to see your family, friends and colleagues due to Covid-19 restrictions

For other people, they might find that they feel lonely at certain times of the year, such as the festive period over Christmas and New Year, birthdays or even events such as anniversaries.

What can I do to help reduce loneliness?

There are many ways that are suggested to help reduce loneliness, some of these are listed below:

  • Talk to family and friends – A simple conversation with family or friends can help you to understand how you are feeling. 

According to mentalhealth.org.uk “Talking can be a way to cope with a problem you’ve been carrying around in your head for a while. Just being listened to can help you feel supported and less alone. And it works both ways. If you open up, it might encourage others to do the same.”

  • Looking after yourself just doing some simple things to help look after yourself can improve your general wellbeing such as; taking a break as and when you need to, eating healthily and keeping yourself active. 
  • Joining a social group Having like-minded people around you, that enjoy the same activities and hobbies can help to reduce your loneliness over time, as you become more acquainted with your peers.
  • Get the Samaritans Self-Help app – The Self-Help app was created by the Samaritans with the purpose to provide a type of support that you can use without having to discuss your feelings with someone else, it is a web application which you can download onto your phone or computer. 

If you would like to download the Self-Help app, then please go to https://selfhelp.samaritans.org

If you feel that your mental health is being affected, be sure to reach out to your support system or a mental health support service as soon as possible. 

We recommend that you get in touch with Able Futures which is a government funded charity, which can provide a program/support for all matters relating to mental health, their website is able-futures.co.uk and their direct number is 0800 321 3137.

Reshape HR is here to assist. We work with a variety of clients based across the UK, so if you are looking for HR or Payroll support or simply looking to run something past us, please do get in touch with us via:

T: 0141 471 5510
E: info@reshapehr.com
W: reshapehr.com


Bank of England

💸 The Bank of England’s announcement yesterday was monumental for individuals and businesses across the UK 💸.

With the stark admission that the UK may be heading towards a recession, this will no doubt be playing on the minds of businesses, irrespective of the sector and size with both, improving efficiency and saving costs will now be at the forefront of agenda for many and what they can do to protect their businesses, and support their employees.

Don’t leave it to late to analyse your business, the best course is to take action NOW, rather than react of what may await you and your business later down the line 😰.

Taking certain decisions can be both daunting and challenging for businesses, especially those that require consultation, so it can be beneficial to get some expert HR advice and guidance around such as:

◆ Alternatives to redundancy (i.e. job redeployment)
◆ Temporarily laying off employees (potentially)
◆ Managing staff redundancies (last resort)
◆ Performance Management
◆ Wellbeing and other types of support for employees

This relives some of the pressure and stress knowing that you have sound HR support and guidance at hand at all times.

Reshape HR is here to assist. We work with a variety of clients based across the UK, so if you are looking for HR or Payroll support or simply looking to run something past us, please do get in touch with us via:

↠ T: 0141 471 5510
↠ E: info@reshapehr.com
↠ W: reshapehr.com 

Just as with Covid-19 pandemic, lets work together to get through these difficult times.



Employment Law Update – April 2022

As April descends upon us (we can’t believe it either)……it is important to note some of the key changes in relation to Employment Law, such as:

  • NMW/NLW rates as of 1st April 2022
  • Changes to Employment Allowance (EA)
  • Gender pay gap
  • IR35

We have made a list of the some of the key changes in the attached document.

Reshape HR is here to assist. We work with a variety of clients based across the UK, so if you are looking for HR or Payroll support or simply looking to run something past us, please do get in touch with us via:

T: 0141 471 5510
E: info@reshapehr.com
W: reshapehr.com 


National Sickie Day

National Sickie Day

In the UK, the first Monday of February is known as National Sickie Day, as it is statically proven to be a day when most people will phone in sick at work, it was formally devised in 2011 by ELAS Group.

Why does it happen?

One of the most contributing factors for this is that it coincides with the first payday since Christmas for most people, whilst another theory is that perhaps with the start of a new year, employees generally start to re-evaluate their careers, meaning most sickness absences is relating to actually able to attend job interviews with a potential new employer.

How can you manage absences?

Most line managers have started to accept text messages and emails from employees who plan to take the day off, instead of challenging their reasons for absence and ensuring that the business’s absence reporting procedure is being followed and the sickness does not trigger any absence points, in-line with the Company’s policy.

This approach may in turn follow onto other employees and allow a culture where absence is accepted without any due protocols or follow-ups.

Although the stigma around mental health is on the decrease as a result of many charitable and employer led campaigns, it is still common for employees to use cold, flu and other excuses to take a break from work by calling in sick as opposed to mentioning their mental health.

We at Reshape HR advise that you:

  1. Review your absence reporting procedures
  2. Communicate the absence reporting procedure and the sickness absence policy to all employees
  3. Review your absence monitoring procedures and trigger points
  4. Ensure line managers have the relevant training to undertake difficult conversation with employees
  5. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that flexible working may be a common thing in the not-so-distant future, so ensure that you review any of the Company’s flexible working arrangements and ensure it is compatible with your business and your employees in a hybrid/remote working approach.
  6. Perhaps have a wellbeing strategy in place within your business.
    A report by CIPD in 2018 suggested that organisations which had a wellbeing policy and activities in place, experienced lower sickness absences by almost 52%.

If you would like to find out more information on an of the above or would like any assistance with any of your HR policies and procedures, than simply get in touch:

T:   0141 471 5510
E:   info@reshapehr.com
W: reshapehr.com