How to Have Hard Conversations at Work by Bekah Jarnagin

Project Purpose & Objectives

My idea for this project came from a class last semester in which we talked about the necessity of having hard conversations and how many young people have not developed this skill. I felt I also had not developed this skill as thoroughly as I could have, so I decided to create a podcast about how to have hard conversations at work with the objectives of gaining greater skill at speaking professionally, being less afraid of having difficult conversations, learning strategies to do so, teaching others the same, and and making my podcast series available to all. 

Though I believe many kinds of audiences can benefit from viewing/listening to my podcast series, I mainly targeted young professionals like myself. I also wanted to give my viewers a comprehensive view of difficult conversations at work, so each episode topic is wildly different.

Project Processes

1. Research

While I covered a range of difficult work conversation topics, I followed the same process for each episode. Step one was to research the topic I would be speaking on that week. Of course, I always chose sources authored by a trusted journal or individual. I would come up with the sub-topics I wanted to cover and delve into each. Once I had all of the information I desired, I organized it into more of a ‘flow’ so I could create my episode script. 

2. Episode Script

The script itself was initially half-sentence constructions listed by bullet. However, I quickly learned that was not enough for me to deliver an intelligent-sounding podcast episode. It became easier to deliver the information clearly when I wrote in complete sentences, but in a bullet format, displayed below. After I created my script, it was time to print it out and film. 

3. Film

My filming setup was decently simple, consisting of my camera, tripod, box light, and microphone. I put everything in the corner of my bedroom in front of my chair, used one of my family members to focus the camera, and hit record. 

4. Edit

Once I felt I had said everything I needed to for an episode, I put away my setup, got my SD card, and inserted it into my computer so I could edit. I found it easiest to edit each episode directly after I filmed because the information was still fresh in my mind and I could often remember where I needed to make a cut. 

5. Upload to YouTube

After editing, I downloaded the video and uploaded it to YouTube. Then, I promoted it on social media and had my siblings do the same. I was only expecting 10 views on average, but I ended up getting over 100 views on my first episode alone!

The Project

Once I had my processes down, it became easier over time to create each episode. It also helped that I had outlined each topic early on. Below is every podcast episode of How to Have Hard Conversations at Work: An HR Perspective.

Episode 1: How to File a Complaint
Episode 2: How to Ask for a Raise
Episode 3: How to Resolve a Conflict with a Coworker
Episode 4: Addressing Employee Underperformance
Episode 5: Unfair Treatment at Work
Episode 6: Blatant Discrimination
Episode 7: Giving Bad News
Episode 8: When the Conversation Escalates

Challenges Encountered

I originally believed that housing my podcast under Apple Podcasts would ensure that more people would have access to it, but I soon realized there were several administrative and monetary concerns with running my podcast through this channel. First, the podcast would need to be verified by the Apple Podcast domain, which I read could take over a month. Second, Apple Podcast users require a subscription to listen, which did not align with my goal to make my podcast available to as many people as possible. So, housing my project on Apple Podcasts was not going to work as I had previously thought.

I instead pivoted to adding the video element that daunted me and decided to post my podcast on YouTube. The advantages of this were that seeing me talk could potentially be more entertaining for a wider audience, I have professional camera equipment to make the podcast as high-quality as possible, and I am familiar with video editing. The disadvantages of this were that filming and editing took a greater amount of time than I had anticipated, and the nerves I felt because I appeared on camera rather than viewers just hearing my voice caused additional stress. In the end, my desire to make the podcast the most available aligned with my decision to put it on YouTube instead of Apple Podcasts.

Overview & Insights

Though I mentioned before that I often wrote complete sentences that I read off to the camera, I found that this made it easier for me to speak intelligently when I improvised something I would say. However, having the safety crutch of my script to fall back on helped me feel more confident while filming. 

I have always been comfortable writing, however, I learned that I am more comfortable speaking intelligently when I feel that I am adequately informed about a topic. For instance, completing all of my own research for this project helped me feel more prepared to speak because I have recent experience learning about any given topic. 

My learning was more positively impacted when I provided examples of concepts for my viewers. As I took on a pseudo teacher role for this podcast, I came away from each episode feeling as though I had learned more once I had talked about the topic while filming. 

I lastly learned that because so much time is spent at work, employees are going to naturally see less presentable sides of one another. It is how we choose to respond to someone acting poorly towards us that makes the difference. One of the most natural responses to an aggressive communicator is to match that aggression. However, by choosing to take a breath or a quick mental break from the situation, we allow ourselves greater headspace to react rationally.

I have enjoyed making and learning from this podcast and I hope it will be a valuable resource to young professionals looking to communicate better at work.

Video Description

If you’re interested, a video of me describing my project is below.