Do You Run Away From Conflict?
Working through conflict takes time, energy and courage. Dodging conflict or avoiding it altogether is always the path of least resistance. Conflicts can get messy, harm relationships, and leave everyone feeling unhappy. Most of all, addressing conflict increases the likelihood of not being liked by the parties involved. For those with a profound need to be liked, conflict is a sure-fire way of drawing derision from those we want to like us.
For leaders allergic to conflict, delivering a tough message becomes a herculean task. They’ll dance around the issue. Then send ambiguous messages often interpreted as “everything is fine.”
When team members don’t receive the kind of feedback they need from leaders, their skills stagnate. Even though conflict-avoidant leaders know this, it is exceedingly hard for them to find the courage to tell others the truth about their performance and what is required to make better progress.
Perhaps the worst drawback for leaders who eschew conflict is the dishonesty required to avoid ruffling feathers. To avoid conflict, leaders often go along with others even when they disagree with their positions. This act of cowardice occurs when conflict is likely. It brands the leader as someone who is not to be trusted to tell others what they really think. The stamp of gutless rarely leaves a leader and undermines just about everything they do in the eyes of the team.
If you’re going to lead, you have to get better at giving honest candid feedback, even if you abhor conflict. The first step is to presume conflict is inevitable and that avoiding it creates a performance vacuum. It pushes leadership to others. By learning how to confirm who others are, and not what they have done, or what they believe, leaders can sometimes overcome this curse.
Telling people they are viewed positively and why they are valued allows the conflict-avoidant leader to buck up and then describe how they honestly see the person’s performance or contribution. Separating the person and the performance is critical for all leaders, but especially for those who avoid conflict.
Practicing it with issues of low consequence until comfort rises and it becomes obvious that others appreciate the support and candidness is paramount. The surprise for leaders who avoid conflict is the reaction they get when they disconnect the value they have for the person from what they do. When they support the qualities of a team member but insist on offering candid feedback about their actions, others like them even more.