Managing relationships

Describe ways of dealing with difficult situations where it is not possible to meet the needs and/or expectations of others within organisational guidelines and constraints

It is not always possible to meet the needs and expectations of others, it is important though to work with the other person / team to solve any problems. The aim is to create a win/win situation where both parties feel that their needs have been met.

The parties then look at possible solutions in an open and creative way with the aim of arriving at a solution which is acceptable to both parties.

Often though some of the obstacles are organisational guidelines and constraints that are requirements of every employee in an organisation who are obliged to work to.

Some of the organisational guidelines and constraints that affect me as an employee / manager of NWIS are – security policies, Internet usage policies, Service level agreements (SLA), Patient confidentiality policies, Funding / finance, Staff resources, Time pressures and staff knowledge / expertise.

Although knowing what constraints you have will help in setting realistic and achievable expectations with your customer.

When communicating in difficult situations most people want to avoid conflict and potentially stressful circumstances.  People often find it easier to avoid communicating something that they think is going to be controversial or bad, putting off the communication and letting the situation fester. This is not good to manage expectation of your customers and creates further problems.

In these situation there are tools available to help you plan out these conversations to assist you to communicate your bad news and help handle conflict to achieve a win-win for all parties. Two of these are the STARS structure to help manage expectations and ESP to help achieve a win-win outcome.

The STARS structure (Situation Task Action Risk Suggestions) will help communicating any risk \ issues to your customer that you feel might impact on any previous expectations you have given.

You can use the STARS structure to help pre-plan a conversation with your customer and identify a solution before giving the bad news.

Situation/Task  – What is the problem and the current status of task.

Action – What are the required actions?

Risk – What is the risk? Financial, time – deadline missed, organisational guidelines and constraints?

Suggestions – Provide some suggestions on how to overcome the problem. Provide more staff or addition cost or amend requirements.


Once you have a plan to manage your customers’ expectations, you then need to appropriately communicate your proposal so that they fully understand what you are saying. Simply just sending an email may not be a suitable, you should meet face to face. You need strong, honest and open communication which will help your customer in having trust in what you are proposing.


Another tools you can use to seek a solution when you have to say no is ESP (Empathise, State, Propose)

Use ESP to find a way forward that accomplishes something of value for all parties.

Empathise, Empathise with their problem. Listen to them and acknowledge their position.

State, State your reasons and current position. This could be to state how you are bound by organisational guidelines and constraints.

Propose, Propose a solution that will create a win-win for both parties.


Armed with the tools and knowledge of your organisational guidelines and constraints, you can plan out a fruitful conversation with your customer to help you deal with any difficult situation.

It is also important to identify that you have achieved a win for your customer. You will need to ensure you have satisfied or surpassed their expectations. You can do this by seeking feedback from them and engaging in open communications. This can be achieved by arranging a regular review meetings or asking them to complete a satisfaction survey.

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