Overcoming Your Fear of Confrontation & Conflict with Direct Reports

By December 17, 2020 June 13th, 2022 Self Management Tips

Last Updated on June 13, 2022 by Dave Schoenbeck

Almost all business leaders, managers, and owners find it challenging to learn to deal with conflict. However, overcoming fear of confrontation is essential for anyone in a leadership position, as confronting direct reports is part of a manager’s duty from time to time. 

You don’t have to let the fear of conflict at work get in your way. Here’s what you need to know.

A female manager is apprehensive about how she can overcome her fear of confrontation

Why Do I Have a Fear of Conflict?

Having a fear of conflict doesn’t make you weak. On the contrary, almost everyone would rather avoid conflict than deal with it head-on. Conflict is uncomfortable by nature, even when necessary for the greater good. 

Fear of conflict can stem from many roots. For one, we worry that we will fracture our relationship with the other person if we confront them. Therefore, leaders need to maintain a strong relationship with their direct reports to make the workweek go smoothly and ensure that tasks are completed with no miscommunications, which is a valid fear. 

For some, it’s more about wanting to be liked by others. For example, most people would probably say they wish their coworkers to like them. However, when the desire to be liked prevents you from giving honest feedback to a direct report, it becomes a problem. 

Regardless of the cause, fear of confronting direct reports can impede workflow and lead to more significant issues. Therefore, it’s crucial to overcome this fear to communicate effectively and provide the guidance that your direct reports need from you. 

How to Get Over Fear of Confrontation

Overcoming the fear of confrontation doesn’t happen overnight, but you can achieve it through consistent behaviors. Here’s what you need to keep in mind when confronting direct reports:

  • Conflict does not resolve itself. The only way to fix a problem is to address it. So you’re doing your people kindness by bringing up issues early on and giving them the chance to fix things before their behaviors become habits. 
  • Reframe the issue. Conflict often feels like you vs. another person, but it should be the two of you vs. the problem. Your direct report is your ally, and both of you have a vested interest in solving whatever problem has arisen. Please don’t make it personal; hopefully, they won’t take it personally. 
  • Be respectful. How you confront someone will go a long way towards achieving an optimal outcome. Deliver negative feedback gently and be ready to understand their point of view
  • Lead by example. The way you address conflict with your direct reports will provide them with a framework for addressing conflict with each other. It would be best if you modeled a healthy way of delivering feedback, even when you’re afraid. You’re doing your team service by showing them the way forward. 
  • Give positive feedback, too. If your team only hears from you when something is wrong, they’ll become demoralized and gun-shy. It would help if you regularly delivered positive feedback so that negative feedback doesn’t feel as personal. This will also make it easier for you to raise your colleagues’ problems in the future, as they’ll know their work is valued. 

It’s not easy to overcome our fear of confronting direct reports. However, a professional business coach can help. Click here to fill out my contact form, and we can discuss how to be more comfortable with confrontation in the workplace.

Coach Dave


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