While conflict is a natural and necessary part of most jobs, it’s more common than you might think for managers to avoid it whenever possible. Most managers are not ready to react to conflict in the moment, preferring to wait for it to blow over or hope the problem solves itself. Even strong-willed managers can turn tail at the first sign of conflict with another employee.
Conflict avoidance, however, does no one any favors. As a business leader, it’s your job to model healthy conflict coping strategies for your employees. Fortunately, overcoming conflict avoidance in the workplace is possible, and can become natural with practice.
Dealing with Conflict Avoidance at Work
Conflict avoidance in the workplace might absolve you of some temporary discomfort, but in the long run, it causes more problems than it solves. Without conflict, nothing ever changes. In order to discipline problem employees, correct mistakes, and overall foster more trust with your team, you need to focus on overcoming conflict avoidance in the workplace.
Overcoming Conflict Avoidance in the Workplace
The first step is to reframe the way you think about conflict. The word itself carries a negative connotation, but any time you have two different viewpoints, there’s a potential for conflict to occur. Of course, you want to encourage many different opinions to have a well-rounded team. Thus, the chance of conflict cropping up is high.
But conflict doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Employees need you to bring up hard truths. Too many managers let bad behavior go on for too long because they’re afraid of conflict, but that’s not fair to the team member who might have no idea they’re making a mistake. Nor is it fair to the rest of the team who has to pull the extra weight when the work contains errors.
When done right, conflict can be explored through clear communication. As a leader, it’s your job to model this for your team, because it should go both ways. You want your team to speak up if you’re doing something wrong, and likewise, you absolutely must address mistakes your teammates continually make.
In order to do this, implement frequent check-ins with your team. Be gentle but honest about any problems you’ve noticed in their performance, and invite the opportunity to receive criticism, as well. Invest in a communication seminar if you think it’s necessary to work on overcoming conflict avoidance in the workplace, for yourself and for your team.
At the end of the day, you’re responsible for your team, and they look to you for guidance. The goal is to have an open dialogue that both parties can trust to be truthful and kind. It might be uncomfortable at first to have tough conversations with your employees, but they need to be able to trust you to take action when it’s needed.
Overcoming conflict avoidance in the workplace is a concrete step towards becoming a world-class leader. Fill out my contact form to sign up for a complimentary coaching call with me, and we’ll work on how to manage your conflict avoidance.
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