Bad Parenting Techniques don’t apply at the Workplace Either
Conflict happens everywhere and comes from a miscommunication over a variety of sources: conflicting goals or priorities, or even a lack of shared goals. It can also derive from personality conflicts and the competition over scarce resources. Thinking and communicating styles along with personal and organizational values may also be causes for conflict. But I am positive you already know this. This is not the tough part. What you need to be aware of is that your ability to identify conflict and how you respond and resolve it will limit or enable your team’s success. Therefore, learning to manage conflict is integral to high-performance teams…and per extension, how you manage conflict at home may tell a lot about how you handle it at the workplace.
Conflict management is the principle that all conflicts cannot necessarily be resolved, but what you need to know is that learning how to manage them can decrease the odds of nonproductive escalation. Physiologically we respond to conflict in one of two ways: we want to get away from the conflict, withdraw and leave things unresolved or we are ready to take on anyone who comes our way. However, many of us have encountered situations where leaders used an avoiding style in an effort to diffuse conflict. As a leader, would that strategy make you inapt in the eyes of others? But how can you shift from avoidance as a conflict management strategy to a healthy, confrontational management strategy? A myriad of books on the topic suggest that three major deficiencies contribute to the ineffectiveness of conflict-avoidance communication strategies:
The Negative Shortcoming of a Positive-Only Approach to Conflict Management
The first and worst deficiency comes from the unquestioned assertion that only positive utterances promote successful communication. In that case, you should “reward the good, and ignore the bad.” But what about a constructive alternative when dealing with conflict? By going from a “No” to a “Here, play with this fun, safe toy instead”, you as a manager or a parent will find your dealings to be more productive and harmonious.
Chatting Away May Not be the Answer
The second deficiency resides in the promotion of discussion as the main and often only way to successful communication. Because tough and quick decision making is avoided, indecisiveness becomes a virtue because it allows one to avoid taking a stand for an unpopular point of view, and therefore avoid conflict. In such case, a manager or parent may defer decision (and conflict) and thereby turn aside from assuming the status of unpopular manager or parent.
When Emotions Get in the Way
The third deficiency refers to the concept that conflict-avoidance strategies involve a lack of positive AND negative emotions. Even though these strategies emphasize the importance of talking about feelings, it is done in a rational way that seeks to give approval to “openness” or “honesty” and disapproval to things like “contempt” and “anger”.
On the contrary, if conflict is deliberately avoided on a permanent basis, it will most probably be interpreted as your incapacity to confront others and manage conflict, which is not very strategic. Does the fear and incapacity to face disagreements or struggles make one a bad manager and to an extent, a bad parent? Because conflictual communication is often productive, avoiding conflict only defers it and will fail you and your team to move toward success. And this should be a setback since as a manager and hopefully a leader; your end goal should be success through positive communication and collaboration. While collaborating, accommodating, competing and compromising are conflict management strategies, avoidance is not a strategy, it is a style. Because hope is not a strategy, embracing conflict as a source of growth and transformation should be your winning strategy.
Conflict is inevitable. In fact, if it would not exist, we would not have the chance to learn and understand each other’s perspectives. The elephant in the room will not change size over time, it will get bigger and it may cost you. It may cost your reputation, your ability to manage others, the perception of your effectiveness. Should I say more? Denying the existence of an issue will not make it disappear. If you are a parent, follow the same strategy. Get at the bottom of things before the problem begins to manage you and ask yourself the right questions.
How important is the issue to you?
Do you have the energy to handle this conflict?
Are you aware of the potential consequences of using avoidance to handle conflict?
Are you ready for the consequences?
What are the consequences if you decide to not engage in the conflict?
“Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions”
While avoidance may be used as a strategic action to delay time in an effort to gather more information and to prevent costly interruption, this strategy would imply a time component, a deadline when conflict would be directly and openly dealt with. But letting the clock run too long may cost you. Over thinking and over analyzing will prevent you from making a decision and will paralyze any potential outcome for a solution. When dealing with conflict and trying to manage it, there might not be a perfect solution, but a decision must be made. The “paralysis by analysis” syndrome can be conquered. Even if your intentions are good and you are willing and able to address conflict at your workplace, you must be aware that when dealing with conflict, time is of the essence before escalating issues take on a scary proportion. Low team morale and a high turnover rate should not be your only clue that you should be dealing with important issues in a timely manner. Being the last one to know about issues may be a reality, but being able to react to them and take concrete steps to solve conflict may be your best way to show your true leadership skills. Doing nothing will not encourage change.