Centre for Continuing Education

Managing Difficult Conversations and Under Performance Course

Business Communication. Sharpen your communication skills.

COVID-19 update: arrangement of our courses

We are now delivering courses both online and in-person. Please check the delivery format for each class before you enrol.

Please note that course materials for all classes (excluding prescribed textbooks) are shared electronically within 48 hours of a course starting. Printing is not available.

The aim of this managing difficult conversations course is to work through a framework to enable you to initiate and respond effectively, primarily at work, although much of what we will focus on will apply in areas of your life.

Stop avoiding having those difficult conversations with team members or knowing how to respond when you are on the receiving end. By not actively engaging at critical moments, it may lead to more problematic outcomes. The difficult conversations section of this course will empower you for more genuine and authentic engagement within your team and organisation.

The second section of this course focuses on performance management and managing those who are under performing. This can be one of the most stressful parts of managing people at work and it is one responsibility that supervisors find daunting. This part of the course will equip you with the skills and knowledge to deal confidently and professionally with under and poor performers. Suitable processes, both formal and informal, will be demonstrated to show you how to get staff performance back on track. And if this is not possible, manage the situation, while ensuring that it does not escalate into conflict or contravene the Fair Work Act 2009 (No. 28, 2009 as amended).


This course aims to:

  • prepare you with the skills to manage difficult conversations with people at all levels within an organisation
  • provide a robust set of steps for delivering favourable outcomes despite difficult conversations being required
  • outline the steps for helping an underperformer deliver improved outcomes
  • equip you with due process should termination of an employee be required after reasonable resources for lifting performance have been exhausted.


By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • determine whether a difficult conversation is worth having and if so, how to proceed without delay
  • engage in difficult conversations with ease, grace and poise and confidence
  • achieve worthwhile outcomes for all stakeholders participating in difficult conversations and In so doing, focus on impact (rather than intent) for achieving a constructive outcome from a difficult conversation
  • manage the emotions of team members whilst maintaining healthy boundaries and preserving your own strength (this includes managing difficult and aggressive team members)
  • commence an underperformance discussion in a manner which provides the team member with resources and positivity to correct the shortfall, and In so doing, identify and respond to the causes of underperformance versus poor performance
  • work to resolve poor performance in the interests of the whole team (this includes giving honest and constructive feedback to team members)
  • develop skills in managing upwards, sideways and downwards.


The Managing Difficult Conversations section of this course focuses on the practical application of specialised techniques while addressing some of the following questions:

  • What is your purpose for having the conversation?
  • With whom?
  • When?
  • How?
  • What do you hope to accomplish?
  • What would be the best outcome? For whom?

After addressing these questions, we will develop ways of focussing on impact rather than intent and thereby foster a positive environment of collaboratively working with the other party to achieve a constructive outcome.

The Performance Management section of this course is aimed at assisting you to:

  • examine a range of tools and techniques that enable the effective management of poor performance
  • identify common performance issues and manage poor performance within teams
  • consider how to minimise performance issues in the workplace
  • consider the industrial relations implications of under and poor performance.

We will examine how a subordinate can self-evaluate the gap between their current and desired performance and how we, as a supervisor, can then review this self-assessment and agree on realistic resources for helping the subordinate to bridge this gap.

Whilst the focus is on delivering required performance, we also review the steps needed should a team member’s performance consistently fall short of requirements after all realistic resources have been expended.

Intended audience

Suitable for all individuals having responsibility for achieving outcomes in combination with other people. Skills and scenarios cater for having difficult conversations upwards, sideways and downwards. This course is also intended for anyone who has responsibility and accountability for the output of other team members, thereby needing to manage performance to ensure acceptable team outcomes.

Delivery style

Delivered over two sessions. In the first session, we will cover the frameworks for managing difficult conversations and managing under performance. The second session will build on your knowledge and skills practiced in the intervening time between the two sessions. This course offers small group work and role plays using a combination of case studies and real-life scenarios should attendees choose to confidentially volunteer these scenarios.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Course materials – yours to keep
  • CCE Statement of Completion

What others say.

  • The course content and the interactive nature of the sessions gives an interesting insight into human interaction during difficult conversations. The course provides an easy to follow practical framework when preparing for such conversations.

  • Fantastic course and facilitator – lots of great information and practical application.

  • The presenter was excellent – used our real life experiences as examples to role play and work through and is direct and clear, allowing for much interaction.

  • Really interesting and fantastic learning experience. Well-paced lesson plan and clear direction.

  • This course enabled me to look at my strengths and weaknesses when it came to having any type of communications. It challenged my ideas on communications and provided a framework for future interactions with colleagues and families. It enabled me to identify the many roles that I play in my organisation and the importance of staying true to that role. I learnt a lot about me and how my interactions can be perceived.

  • This is my second time back and I grow so much each time. Both myself and my colleague really liked the direct feedback and learned so much by it – keep up the great work!

  • I was pleased to be challenged by my thinking patterns and there were many things for me to incorporate. It really is taking on a few things at a time, perfecting that and then incorporating more. I think it will lead to much better outcomes and planning for my conversations in general in my role, not just difficult ones.

Managing Difficult Conversations and Under Performance Course

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Managing Difficult Conversations and Under Performance Course

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What others say.

  • Great Course! Excellent information and very well delivered.
  • This course was very practical and participants from different industries received useful advice from the tutor.
  • The tutor was extremely helpful and gave the class useful tools to put into practice on the workplace.
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