For many, your job is your home away from home. You spend countless hours there working alongside colleagues, taking notes from supervisors, and interacting with customers and clients.
In such a situation, especially if you’re in the pressure cooker environment of projects nearing deadlines, it’s only a matter of time before conflict arises.
Running into issues at work is an inevitability. Nobody wants to think about it, much less experience it, but it happens.
Such events can be disruptive and uncomfortable for all involved, and they often affect the productivity of your entire organization.
Defusing Conflict via Confrontation
If you want to be a good business leader, you need to know how to defuse touchy situations in constructive ways to end conflicts before they spiral out of control.
The secret to success in this area may sound counter-intuitive, but it’s surprisingly effective: confrontation.
When talking about confrontation, not just any type of interaction will do.
Focusing on a constructive confrontation that’s aimed at resolving a conflict and moving forward after a resolution is what’s going to get your organization back on track.
The best way to illustrate this point is a real-world example.
The Story of Russell, the Awful Mail Room Worker
Once upon a time, I was working as a mid-level manager in an office setting. It came to my attention that Russell, our mail room worker, was simply not performing up to snuff.
He’d been warned several times about his performance. But he still persisted in a less-than-ideal manner, claiming that he didn’t lack motivation, he was just naturally absent-minded when it came to things like attending meetings or following directions precisely.
It finally came time to pull Russell aside for some coaching. Upon discussing his behavior, he felt that these issues were ancillary to his core job – delivering mail – and that he felt that his core performance demonstrated his dedication to his job.
With that knowledge, I told him the truth: I was gratified to hear that he saw himself as dedicated and interested in succeeding, but his focus needed to be shifted away from success on his own terms to success as measured by the requirements of his job.
Not just a few of those requirements, either, but all of them.
I’d love to report that Russell changed his work ethic after our conversation. Instead, he did better.
A few weeks later, he came to me and told me that in order for him to be honest with me, the company, and himself, he would do better in a creative position and not one that had so many stringent requirements.
He requested a transfer to a different department and went on to be highly productive there.
This example illustrates the positive nature of constructive confrontation. I didn’t harangue or threaten Russell for his under-performance. There were no threats of being written up or termination.
It was just a straightforward and honest conversation that left both of us feeling like we accomplished something, and that we understood each other better.
If we had never had that confrontation, it’s likely that Russell would have continued in his behavior until it got him fired.
This would be resolving the conflict, but it would lead to ridding the company of a highly creative mind that brought an immense amount of value.
Your Mileage May Vary
Constructive confrontation isn’t an easy skill to master.
It requires the ability to regulate your own emotions during a confrontation and the ability to communicate clearly and honestly without upsetting everyone involved.
As if that weren’t enough, you also need to be able to work towards a resolution that works for everyone as well.
But mastering such a skill provides you with an incredible resource.
Whether you’re a supervisor that needs to discuss an issue with a worker, or if you have to speak to your own supervisor about an issue, having constructive confrontation skills at your disposal will make things easier for you and everyone else.
How Do You Handle Confrontation in the Workplace?
If you have ideas you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!
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