Stop avoiding conflict

Bud to Boss Take 5

Stop avoiding conflict

Problem: Your organization uses 360-degree feedback, gathering input from everyone with whom you work, and the comments you received in your last evaluation surprised you. Although you received a good amount of praise, a number of people offered the same criticism: They felt you were “too conflict-averse.” Now you’re worried that you’re coming across as a pushover or someone who can’t handle difficult situations.

Solution: Easily losing your temper and being argumentative are not qualities of a good leader—but neither is avoiding conflicts altogether. When an employee does something out of line—whether the behavior is directed toward you, a co-worker, a customer or the person’s work responsibilities—you need to have the backbone to address it. Follow these tips to handle problems well, so that your team sees you as a leader, not a wimp:

  • Gather information. Before you address an issue with an employee, investigate the situation. If an employee missed a deadline, for example, look back over the emails and memos you exchanged to see whether the deadline was clear. If a complaint comes from another employee, don’t brush it off, even if your immediate reaction is to assume that the person complaining is overreacting. Ask questions to get to the bottom of the problem.
  • Calm yourself. If an employee is rude or otherwise out of line with you, you’re bound to be upset. Don’t attempt to address the conflict while the wound is still fresh. Visible anger or hurt feelings could cause the problem to escalate. Even if the behavior wasn’t directed at you, you might need time to compose yourself. An employee’s mishandling of a customer, for example, isn’t a direct affront to you, but it can still upset you. Practice deep breathing, take a walk or call a friend for a quick chat to gain control of your emotions.
  • Schedule a meeting. You don’t need to go into detail when you request the meeting, but you should clarify the reason for it so the person doesn’t feel blindsided when you talk. That will just make the person angry and defensive, which won’t help resolve the conflict. Meet with the person one-on-one, in person if possible, or over the phone if you can’t meet face to face. Never address a major problem or conflict over email or in front of other employees.
  • Be direct. Don’t beat around the bush or make small talk. Address the reason for the meeting immediately. Say what you observed and why it’s a problem.Example: “I’ve noticed that you’ve been cutting Clara off in meetings and rolling your eyes when she makes suggestions. That kind of behavior is not conducive to teamwork and it hurts morale.” Then, state the consequences, and follow through with them. Note: Ensure that all consequences are in line with your organizations’ policies and employee handbook.
  • Return to normalcy. An employee who has been reprimanded might act awkwardly toward you for a while, but set the tone for professionalism by treating the employee exactly as you always have. Greet the person warmly when you see each other in the office. Praise his or her contributions in meetings. Ask about work, family or hobbies when you’re in the break room together. Those kinds of behaviors will indicate to the person that don’t expect the reprimand to hamper your relationship.

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3 Responses to Stop avoiding conflict

  1. Pingback: Stop Workplace Drama in 2 Hours! | Stop avoiding conflict

  2. Pingback: Handle an employee’s outburst with dignity | Workplace Survival

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