Confrontation is not always a negative. Some managers try to avoid conflict at all costs for fear of hurting or angering someone, to the point it can harm the morale of the team. Unfortunately, “going along simply to get along,” often creates additional issues. Procrastinating and avoiding confrontation with the hopes the problem will solve itself can erode trust, destroy efficiency and crush morale just as much as open conflict!
Sometimes we learn more about ourselves and others through a critical, but constructive conversation and examination of the situation at hand. We cannot come up with the best solutions to tough problems without change and without some degree of differences in opinion.
The following tips will help you get the best out of difficult situations.
Speak in private
One of the worst things that you can do when you talk with someone about their performance or behaviour is to speak with them publicly. Always have crucial conversations in private, one-on-one. If possible, arrange to have your meeting while sitting together at a table, so the discussion feels less physically threatening.
Keep a check on your non-verbal body language
Help diffuse the tension and avoid pushing the other party into a defensive position right at the start by giving them visual cues that let them know you want to work with them to resolve the issue. Watch your body language. It can often say something you don’t mean!
Remain calm and focused on the specific issue
Be assertive with the challenging people you work with. Try to keep an even tone by controlling your breathing. Consider practising what you want to say with a mentor to gain feedback about your approach to the confrontation.
During the conversation, focus on the person’s past acts of positive behaviour and performance before speaking about the current issue. Avoid asking “why” they have performed in a certain manner. Choose questions that begin with “what” and “how,” so you can focus the discussion on the actions that need to change to move things forward.
Explain how you feel and take accountability for your role in the present situation, but do not simply agree for the sake of avoiding a confrontation. It is important that your needs and the other person’s needs are met. Talk with them about how they feel about their performance and behaviour and ask them for their input and ideas about what steps you can both take to improve their performance and resolve the situation.
Focus on the positive benefits of change
When discussing the issue, clarify the person’s role and responsibilities and your expectations of their performance and behaviour. Offer them specific examples of what you expect in terms of the type of change that you would like to see. Remind them of the rewards and benefits they will receive when they improve their performance.
Always be courteous and respectful
No matter how good-natured, talented or smart someone is, everyone makes mistakes – even you! Be considerate of the other person’s feelings when you confront them and treat them with the same respect you expect when you make a mistake. Let the person know that you aren’t trying to “catch” them in an error and that you are on their side. Partner with them to come up with a resolution and a plan of action that benefits them as much as it benefits you and everyone else on your team!