I suppose there are some people who enjoy conflict, but most of us prefer to avoid it. In several client meetings recently, we discussed reasons for avoiding difficult situations such as telling a subordinate that their performance is unacceptable or standing up to a bullying boss. People typically put off those conversations because they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or because they are afraid of possible repercussions.
Consider Cost vs. Benefit
I asked my clients to evaluate the cost of avoiding the conversation versus the benefit of having it. Being honest with a subordinate who isn’t performing up to expectations means we are supporting the rest of the team in meeting deliverable commitments. What is the cost to our credibility and our health when we allow our boss to treat us unfairly?
We then explored what might happen if we chose to reframe conflict as an opportunity for collaboration:
• Disagreements could be addressed in a timely manner
• Colleagues could know their strengths and areas for development
• We could establish healthy boundaries for how we expect to be treated
How to Reframe Conflict
Reframing conflict isn’t easy. It requires:
• Understanding what makes us uncomfortable
• Considering the cost and benefit of each possible reaction
• Choosing how we will respond
I invite you to think about a recent conflict you experienced and how the outcome might have changed if you had approached it with a different mindset.