Having Real Conversations Virtually

I was personally baffled by this question recently especially since many companies have had to release employees to keep their business afloat.  How do you talk to your remaining staff regarding their performance issues whilst working from home? As if performance reviews aren’t hard enough, we now have the added problem of needing to have this discussion virtually. When economic implications are thrown into the mix (a pay reduction or laying someone off), we have to be especially sensitive to the helplessness one may feel. 

Real® conversations are about presenting your voice of truth to the relevant parties involved, with the objective of addressing critical issues or concerns. Real® conversations are needed to build trust and strengthen existing relationships to achieve common goals, and such conversations are built on a level of honesty and transparency. In Getting to “The Real Conversation” in Business, James Peal, Ph.D. affirms that 

“It is that spark of your energy that motivates people. A Real Conversation lets people know what they need to do to get back on course. A Real Conversation changes things. It brings greater clarity and a sense of possibility that something new will take place.”

In preparing to have a Real® conversation, I reflected on my intentions of wanting to have a conversation in the first place. In my case, it was to find out how my employees and I can better support each other to deliver greater outcomes and quality work. I also needed them to take responsibility and be accountable for their work rather than defend themselves with the reasoning that working from home leads to a decrease in productivity and quality. 

Here are three principles that can help you have a Real® conversation: 

Be Genuine 

The basis for real conversations is sincerity. The psychological posture of the one who is initiating Real® conversations must be genuine.  This means that one who truly wants to say something says exactly how he or she feels, without pretence.  One needs to be authentic, which means being sincere, honest, truthful and not hypocritical. 

Timely Honesty

This concept proposes that the initiator sharing the information with the intended recipient will have to select an appropriate moment to share the truth. Having Real® conversations requires us to be as honest as possible with others. We can do this by finding the right time when the recipient is in a stable emotional state to deal with the truth. 


The deliverer of truth must do so in a mature manner. The conversation must be evidence-based, address the key issue (not every issue) and must facilitate two-way understanding. To help the recipient deal with the conveyed information, sensitivity and patience must be shown as defensiveness will almost always arise.  

Let’s embrace the importance of speaking the truth in appropriate contexts and re-direct our energy and efforts to areas we can improve. 

For more insights on having change-effecting conversations in the workplace, check out my book - Real® Conversations

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