The majority of people do not like conflict. You are not alone in your dislike to confront angry people or a tough situation. But, you are the leader, and if you want to build healthy communication, you have to model it.
Keep reading, we present three tips you can use – right now – to get over your resistance to dealing with conflict.
Why Is It Important to Deal with Conflict?
When you refuse to acknowledge the problem, it creates a simmering resentment among the group because they know it is the leader’s job to address these issues. This resentment is what sets up passive aggressive behavior that causes more complex issues.
Here are a few of the issues from avoiding conflict:
1.) Increase in staff’s internal conflict.
This frustration leads to unhappiness with the job and the manager. And this contributes to turnover and lack of engagement.
2.) Loss of confidence.
This happens in those avoiding the conflict. Anytime one avoids doing something, it triggers a confidence crisis. It is best to face the challenge.
3.) Lost opportunities.
This is the most mysterious because it happens underneath the radar, so to speak. Here is an example. Let’s say, the unresolved conflict happened between two employees, one was a star employee and the other was new, in search of feedback. By ignoring the opportunity to provide both feedback, they both concluded, “No one cared,” about the team and they started looking for another job.
This is the ultimate measure of what happens with conflict avoidance because you can track the cost of the revolving door and staff churn. Unfortunately, people do not provide honest feedback when asked why they are leaving, and too often the real issue is not addressed.
3 Tips to Get Over Your Fear of Conflict
We know that not all conflict is created equal and there are some issues that are complex. Some conflicts may take more time and effort to understand the core issues, but, these suggestions can be applied to any issue because they deal with your internal reactions to conflict.
#1 Reframe Conflict as an Opportunity
Give up your black and white thinking that conflict is bad and the absence of it is good.
The truth is the absence of conflict says more than its presence.
In a recent consulting scenario, the organization had high scores on employee satisfaction, according to the leaders. But on closer review, the unspoken standard that created this false positive was that people had to be “nice” to each other. One of the VP’s insisted on this behavior and he shut down any type of disagreement that might lead to conflict.
Instead of open and healthy dialogue about how to proceed in various projects, deadlines were missed, timelines stalled and no one talked to each other, except to exchange pleasantries.
Conflict is an opportunity to learn about oneself and the other person. One also learns about the project and details of the job.
The question you can ask yourself, as the leader, is “What information am I missing by avoiding this conflict?”
Did you know…
When you avoid conflict (or anything else for that matter) the fear only intensifies. So when you start to go for it and have that conversation, the fear goes away!
#2 Acknowledge Your Fear
And once you acknowledge it, make a commitment to jump in and have that conversation. Why? Because as the leader, if you want to be promoted, you have to be willing to set your emotions aside and do things that you may not want to do.
Being willing to face your fears is going to position you as an authentic leader and you will get the attention of the right people.
Fear of conflict or anything else, is false evidence appearing real (fear). This means you are afraid of something that is created by overthinking the problem.
Let’s say the “problem” is talking with an employee that is consistently late and who is known for outbursts and “telling people what they think.” In your mind, you are afraid you will appear weak.
The question you want to ask yourself, as the leader, is “Does the rest of the team deserve to deal with this unresolved issue? How would I feel if my boss ignored it?”
Looking at the issue logically, you can lay out the talking points ahead of your conversation.
- The team counts on everyone showing up ready to work.
- This person is an important member of the team and is missed when they do not show up.
- Timeliness is part of the Performance Appraisal.
Keep in mind, you are the leader and responsible to everyone on your team. When one person goes rogue, the entire group is demoralized.
Did you know…
People CRAVE feedback from their manager. Yes, it is true, 79% of employees indicate they want MORE feedback from their boss. Having that ‘tough’ conversation may not be so tough when you use it as an opportunity to appreciate the individual and provide coaching.
#3 Make Feedback a Habit
Now that you understand the desire employees have for feedback from their boss, you can make it a part of everyday interactions. Here are a few ways other leaders have incorporated feedback into everyday work flow.
- Quarterly/ Monthly Coaching Meetings
- Peer Review Surveys
- Feedback on the Fly
It is not what you choose to do as much as it is the consistency with which you do it. Let’s break down feedback on the fly. (There is a formula for this called A.C.E. We talk about this in the Work Smart Club Library!)
Start giving appreciation to your team, in fact, you want to make sure everyone has had a foundation of appreciation.
You can give too much appreciation and it demotivates people.
Appreciation, when personalized and meaningful, cannot be overdone. For example, saying “Good job,” everytime someone does something will not motivate them. But if you also describe why it was a good job, i.e., “you went the extra mile with that customer by sending them a coupon…,” this will build trust between you and your employee so that when you do want to provide constructive feedback (Coaching) they will be open to receiving it.
The question you want to ask yourself, as the leader, is “Do my people know I appreciate them? Have I told them?”
Did you know…
Belonging is one of the 4 basic needs people have at work. Appreciation goes a long way to bring people into the community you are building at work.
Use these strategies, ask yourself the questions and by all means counter the fear of conflict with ACTION so you can get beyond this avoidance and lead!
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