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Meeting Tips

How to Run (Potentially Difficult) HR Meetings With Employees

March 11, 2024
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March 11, 2024
Anika Jahin
How to Run (Potentially Difficult) HR Meetings With Employees
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Imagine this: you've just received a complaint from a frustrated employee, and it's your job to schedule a meeting to address the issue. You understand the delicacy and importance of handling this situation effectively.

There may be a conflict between two employees who are unable to resolve their differences. As an HR professional, your role is to intervene and facilitate the conversation. Handling potentially difficult conversations like these can be daunting, regardless of the nature of the problem.

Here's the good news: You're not alone. Every HR professional encounters challenging meetings from time to time. With proper preparation and approach, conversations can be guided towards positive outcomes, fostering open communication and building trust within the organization.

This blog is your guide to running successful HR meeting despite potential difficulties.

Different Types of HR Meetings With Employees

HR meetings serve a variety of purposes within an organization. From interviewing prospective employees to managing company benefits, human resources play a critical role. Each type of HR meeting requires a slightly different approach.

Here's an overview of the most common types of HR meetings you'll encounter:

New Hire Orientation

Once the job interview process of the prospective employees is completed, it's time for orientation. Welcoming new employees into the company is crucial for a smooth onboarding process.

New hire orientation meetings typically cover company policies, employee benefits, job expectations, and team introductions.

Performance Evaluations

Performance evaluations are structured assessments where an employee's job performance is reviewed and discussed by the HR manager.

These evaluations typically focus on achievements, areas for improvement, goals for future performance and professional development.

Ongoing Training

Ongoing training in the context of an HR meeting refers to regular, scheduled sessions aimed at enhancing employees' skills and knowledge.

This training supports professional development, adapts to changing job roles or technologies, and ensures compliance with industry standards or regulations.

Employee Concerns Meetings

When employees have concerns about the workplace, HR serves as a neutral party to address them. These meetings provide a safe space for employees to voice their concerns, ask questions, and seek solutions.

Addressing employee concerns promptly and effectively is essential for maintaining a positive work environment.

Disciplinary Meetings

Resolving disciplinary issues entails a consistent and professional approach. Disciplinary meetings discuss employee conduct that violates company policies.

The outcome should align with company policies and legal requirements.


Transfer interviews are discussions with employees wanting to move to a different department, role, or location.

They evaluate employee motivations, suitability for the new role, and how the transfer aligns with their career goals and the organization's goals.

Exit Interviews

Exit interviews are the type of HR meeting conducted with employees leaving the company.

This meeting aims to gain insights to help the organization improve its work environment, retain talent, and address systemic issues that may contribute to employee turnover.

Understanding the different types of HR meeting and their specific purposes will help you tailor your approach and ensure successful outcomes.

What Is the Role of HR in Business?

Expanding on the core responsibilities mentioned previously, HR professionals also play a vital role in several additional areas of business:

Change Management

Smooth transitions and minimized disruption are crucial when organizations undergo changes, such as restructuring, implementing new technology, or merging with another company.

Human resource professionals act as facilitators, ensuring effective employee communication.

HR provides training and support to help employees adapt to the new environment and address any employee workplace concerns or anxieties.

Employee Engagement

A positive and engaging work environment is essential for employee satisfaction, motivation, and productivity. Human resource professionals can help facilitate this environment through various initiatives, such as employee recognition, team-building activities, and wellness programs.

Workplace Culture

The overall culture of an organization significantly impacts how employees feel, behave, and perform. HR professionals play a crucial role in shaping this culture ensuring compliance.

HR teams can communicate organizational values, promote diversity and inclusion, and encourage open communication channels. These initiatives can make employees feel valued, empowered, and more connected to their work.

By understanding the multifaceted role of HR within a company, you can gain valuable context for conducting successful HR meeting.

How to Run HR Meetings

Now that we have discussed the vital role that HR plays in an organization, let us move on to the practical aspects of organizing effective HR meetings. To help you confidently navigate these meetings, even in potentially challenging situations, we have put together a step-by-step guide.

(1) Define the Meeting Objective and Purpose

Knowing the meeting's purpose up front sets the stage for a productive conversation. Here's how to ensure everyone's on the same page:

  • Clearly identify the reason: Identify the reason for the meeting and what you hope to achieve. Is it to discuss an employee performance review, address a disciplinary issue, gather feedback, or provide training?
  • Communicate the objective and purpose: Clearly and concisely inform attendees beforehand of the meeting's goal. This helps them come prepared and focus on the specific discussion points.

(2) Develop a Well-Structured Agenda

A well-structured agenda keeps the meeting focused and ensures everyone gets the most out of their time. Here's how to create one:

  • Outline topics and discussion points: Clearly define what will be covered in the meeting. This ensures that all attendees come prepared to participate meaningfully.
  • Set timeframes: Allocate appropriate time for each topic to ensure a focused discussion. This prevents the meeting from running overtime and keeps the conversation on track.
  • Include expected contributions: Specify if attendees need to come prepared with information or ideas. This encourages active participation and helps achieve the meeting's objectives efficiently.
  • Share the agenda beforehand: Sharing agenda ahead allows attendees to gather necessary information and formulate questions ahead, leading to a more productive discussion.

(3) Prepare for the Meeting Thoroughly

Coming prepared demonstrates respect for the allocated time and fosters a productive discussion. Here are some key steps:

  • Gather information and resources: Anticipate questions and concerns based on the gathered materials. Prepare clear responses. Consider past meetings and relevant materials.
  • Practice professional communication: Be approachable, and maintain a neutral tone. Organize your thoughts and avoid jargon for clear understanding.

(4) Foster Open Communication and Active Listening

Cultivate a safe space where employees feel comfortable expressing themselves freely. Here's how:

  • Active listening: Pay close attention to both verbal and nonverbal cues, demonstrating genuine interest through body language and minimal interruptions.
  • Encourage participation: Use open-ended questions, invite feedback, and acknowledge diverse perspectives to foster a collaborative environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their thoughts.

(5) Maintain Professionalism and Objectivity

Upholding professionalism ensures a productive and respectful environment. Here's how to navigate even difficult situations:

  • Focus on objectivity: Present factual information and objective discussion points, avoiding personal opinions or biases that may cloud the conversation. Ensure that everyone involved clearly understands the topic at hand and can make informed decisions based on the facts presented. 
  • Stay composed: Maintain composure and professionalism even when dealing with challenging conversations or emotional responses from others. Remaining calm and collected can help you better navigate the situation and find a constructive resolution.

(6) Clearly Communicate Decisions and Next Steps

Clear documentation and follow-up are crucial for ensuring everyone's on the same page. Here's how to solidify outcomes:

  • Take clear and concise notes: Summarize key points, decisions made, and action items. Capture objective information without personal interpretations.
    Taking notes may be challenging during a difficult meeting, where it is important to remain attentive during conversations.
    In such cases, you can use an AI tool like Wudpecker to record and summarize the discussion. This way, you won't have to worry about taking notes or missing anything important.
  • Share meeting notes: Ensure transparency and alignment by promptly sharing notes with all attendees.
  • Follow up as needed: Provide additional information, schedule follow-up meetings to track progress, or address any outstanding issues.

Handling Difficult Conversations

While the framework above provides a solid foundation for most HR meetings, some situations require additional strategies and techniques. Here's how to effectively navigate potentially difficult conversations:

(1) Establish Ground Rules

Lay the groundwork for a productive and respectful conversation. Here's how to start:

  • Establish ground rules: Emphasize respect, confidentiality, and active listening. Remind everyone that these principles are crucial for a positive outcome.
  • Acknowledge the situation: Briefly acknowledge the sensitive nature of the conversation and express your commitment to finding a solution together. This sets a collaborative tone and eases initial tension.

(2) Manage Your Emotions

Maintaining composure is key to guiding a productive discussion. Here's how to manage challenging situations:

  • Stay calm and professional: Even if emotions run high, project a sense of calm and control. This sets the tone for a more civil conversation.
  • Use "I" statements: Express your perspective using "I" statements to avoid accusations. Focus on how the situation affects you and what you need to move forward. For instance, instead of "Your project deadlines are consistently missed," try "I'm concerned about the recent delays in meeting project deadlines. Is there anything I can do to help?"

(3) Practice Active Listening

Actively listen to understand the employee's perspective and concerns. Here's how to create a safe space for open communication:

  • Validate their feelings: Acknowledge their emotions and concerns, even if you disagree. Phrases like "I understand that you're feeling frustrated" or "It sounds like this situation is causing you a lot of stress" can help build rapport and demonstrate empathy.
  • Ask clarifying questions: Ask open-ended questions to understand their perspective better. Avoid interrupting or offering solutions too soon. This demonstrates respect and encourages them to elaborate.

(4) Offer Solutions and Support

Once you've established a foundation of mutual respect and understanding, it's time to explore solutions. Here's how to move forward collaboratively:

  • Work together: Identify options that address the core issue and are fair for everyone involved. Encourage employees to share their ideas and concerns, fostering a collaborative environment.
  • Open-mindedness: Be receptive to different perspectives. Consider their suggestions and explain your reasoning if necessary.
  • Focus on solutions: Shift the focus from assigning blame to finding solutions to help you move forward. This increases the chances of reaching a mutually beneficial outcome.

(5) Document the Meeting

Precise and accurate notes are essential for following up on action items and referencing key details in the future. Here's why taking notes is essential:

  • Future reference: Detailed notes can be beneficial for revisiting decisions, tracking progress, or addressing any behavior patterns.
  • HR consultations: Having documented notes with specific examples is valuable during consultations with HR managers, enabling informed decisions.

Taking notes during a difficult conversation can be challenging. Wudpecker's AI notetaker solves this problem by recording and summarizing meetings. This allows you to actively participate in the conversation without worrying about writing down notes.

While Wudpecker is an excellent option, remember that any solution you choose should ensure the privacy of all meeting attendees.


Navigating HR meetings and difficult conversations requires clear communication, active listening, and adaptability. By crafting a well-structured agenda, fostering open dialogue, and employing effective strategies for handling complex situations, you can ensure these meetings contribute to positive outcomes for both the organization and employees.

Remember, effective HR communication is a continuous learning process. By continuously improving your skills, fostering trust, and maintaining ethical and confidential communication, you can create a positive and productive work environment for all members of your organization.


What Does It Mean When HR Wants a Meeting With You?

While receiving an HR meeting request can be nerve-wracking, it doesn't necessarily mean trouble. HR meetings address many topics, and their reasons will be communicated beforehand. It could be for:

  • Information: Updates on organizational policies, company benefits, health insurance, compensation packages or training.
  • Performance: Regular reviews or addressing specific concerns.
  • Processes: Disciplinary actions, conflict resolution, or career development discussions enhancing productivity.

Approach the meeting with an open mind and ask clarifying questions if needed. Remember, professional conduct and open communication are key. If you want to dive deeper into this, check out our other blog as well on
How to Survive a Meeting With HR.

Why Would HR Attend a Meeting?

HR professionals attend meetings for a variety of reasons, including:

  • To provide information and answer questions: HR serves as a resource for employees on various topics related to company policies, procedures, benefits, and legal matters.
  • To gather information and feedback: HR might attend meetings to gather information about a specific situation, collect employee feedback on policies or initiatives, or conduct investigations.
  • To facilitate discussions and mediate conflicts: HR professionals can play a crucial role in facilitating constructive conversations, managing conflict resolution processes, and fostering a positive work environment.
  • To represent the company: HR may attend meetings with external stakeholders, such as government agencies or unions, to represent the company's interests and ensure compliance with regulations.

What Does It Mean When HR Gets Involved?

HR involvement in a situation doesn't necessarily indicate trouble. It simply signifies that HR is being informed and potentially offering guidance or support. However, depending on the context, HR involvement could also indicate:

  • A potential policy violation: If HR is involved in investigating a situation, it's important to cooperate and be honest with them.
  • A need for mediation: HR can help facilitate communication and resolve conflicts between colleagues or between employees and management.
  • Compliance or legal matters: HR ensures the company adheres to relevant legal regulations and internal policies. Their involvement might be necessary to address any potential compliance concerns.

What if the Conversation Becomes Hostile or Unproductive?

If the situation escalates, it's okay to reschedule the meeting to allow everyone to cool down. Seek guidance from a senior HR professional if necessary.

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How to Run (Potentially Difficult) HR Meetings With Employees
Min Read
How to Run (Potentially Difficult) HR Meetings With Employees
Min Read
How to Run (Potentially Difficult) HR Meetings With Employees
Min Read