Let’s face it: in child nutrition – or any industry, really – it’s inevitable that there will be times that trying your best to be positive and run your program smoothly still won’t stop bad things from happening. When it comes to being an effective communicator in child nutrition, there are a few sticky situations you may run into at some point. This guide was specifically designed to help supervisors navigate how to handle these unfavorable situations in the best way possible!

Bad News

No one likes giving bad news, and certainly no one enjoys receiving bad news. There is a gentle art to delivering it, however. For starters, bad news should always be delivered in person. It is a best practice to call the person receiving bad news into your office for a private meeting. A phone call for receiving bad news is not encouraged, but would work as a worst case scenario, in the event that the person cannot make it into a private meeting within a convenient period of time. Bad news should never be texted or emailed to someone else; this is informal and unprofessional.

If you are the one delivering the bad news, it is important to get to the point right away, and do not sugarcoat the information being received. It is also important to have empathy when delivering bad news, as many people do not take bad news very well. If you can, offer help to the person who is receiving bad news. For instance, you can say something like, “We have to let you go because are downsizing within the program, but we want to help you find another position within the district or the area.” Offer resources for the other party to take advantage of in order to aid in their current unfortunate situation, if you can.

If you are the one receiving the bad news, it is important to stay calm. Take time to process and really think about the news you are receiving. You may also take time during the private meeting to ask if there are any alternatives to the situation, or any resources you can take advantage of to help your situation. Make sure you do not burn bridges; you never know if or when you may be working with this same person or program again!

Handling Angry Parties

In child nutrition, there may be instances when you must deal with an upset child or an angry parent. This is completely normal! Remember to address the situation thoughtfully, patiently and respectfully. Respect is the key in handling all sticky situations! Listen to the other side of the argument completely before responding. Calmly and logically craft and deliver an explanation or counter-argument to angry party. For instance, you might say, “I understand that you are upset about our policy on charging meals, but this policy was explained in our handbook that was sent home at the beginning of the year.”

If the angry party continues to argue and/or wishes to discuss the situation at hand further, offer to have a meeting with the person in private. Confrontation in public can be humiliating – to one or both parties – as well as frustrating, unnecessary and disruptive.

Reprimanding Staff

If you are in charge of reprimanding a staff member for a mistake he or she has made, or an infraction he or she has committed to the program, there is a gentle art to this as well. Make sure to let the staff member know exactly why he or she is being reprimanded, and help him/her understand what actions will be taken if the mistake is made again. You should also take time to offer help to the staff member being reprimanded, to help him or her avoid the mistake or infraction in the future.

Dealing With Conflict

We can try all we want, but when it comes down to it, conflict is extremely hard to avoid in any industry or work environment. Remember that communication is key in resolving these conflicts! One way to try your best to steer clear of conflict in the workplace is to avoid starting unnecessary drama, spreading rumors or false information, and staying out of business that does not involve you.

If you are directly involved with the conflict, be sure to take a step back, breathe, and give a lot of thought into the entire situation and disagreement. Try your best to see things from the other party’s perspective. You should express your own opinions about the manner, but in a positive and respectful manner. Try your best to find middle ground with the other party (or parties). If finding a resolution proves to be too difficult, seek out help from a supervisor or person with higher authority.

Unfortunate circumstances are sometimes unavoidable when it comes to the working world. The most important thing to remember when dealing with these sticky situations is to keep a positive attitude and a level head, maintain a professional level of respect for all parties involved, and to seek out additional help if necessary. Remembering these tips and using this guide when dealing with sticky situations will help to keep your operations running smoothly!