Avoiding conflict never works
Being a business owner is no walk in the park and you know that for a fact because you experience it every day. Making tough decisions that are crucial to the business and to your workers is not something an average person can do.
Between running the business and managing a group of people, it’s fair to say that it just doesn’t require skills, it also requires sound judgment, good decision-making, and great leadership especially when the people you manage are located on the other side of the world.
When you’re running a business made up of diverse individuals, things can become unpredictable. Conflicts are bound to arise when you’re dealing with different personalities, different beliefs, and different work ethics and it’s your job as a leader to resolve such conflicts.
The problem here is that most people tend to avoid conflict instead of tackling it head on. Call it a natural reaction or tendency, but the bottom line is avoiding conflict won’t solve the problem nor will it make it go away.
Let’s say you have a worker who has a knack for not following instructions. Ignoring him and waiting for him to change will be next to impossible.
You have to talk to the person and make him realize his mistakes and make him understand as well how his action (or inaction) is affecting the business and why he needs to change.
Do you really think he will realize his shortcomings without telling him about it? That’s highly doubtful.
What’s more likely to happen is that he continues doing what he’s been doing because no one has told him that it’s wrong in the first place.
Avoiding conflict is not something a good leader would do. A good leader embraces conflict, takes it head on, and knows the importance of having difficult conversations.
Yes, confrontation can be uncomfortable but this is something a business owner like you should be able to handle.
While it is noble for you to not want to hurt people’s feelings and only natural to fear that people may start to dislike you, in the end you’re still running a business and you are not in your position simply to please people.
So why is having a hard conversation so important anyway? Why is avoiding conflict not part of your job description?
You don’t want to make matters worse
Ignoring conflict will not solve the problem. If anything, it’s more likely to make matters worse because avoiding it is in no way the same as addressing it. It’s like ignoring a small flame – you leave it until it gets so big that you can no longer put it out.
You can’t wait for the problem to solve itself because that would never happen. If you don’t act now, you’ll be in for bigger headaches, much worse than what you are already facing. Why wait when you can resolve the issues now?
It shows that you care
Facing the problem, or at least making an effort to address it shows your workers that you care not just about the business but about their performance and well-being, too.
Doing the opposite is like trying to sweep everything under the rug. It doesn’t show concern on your part but projects you as someone who couldn’t care less about his business and his workers.
It builds trust and respect
By not avoiding conflict, you are showing your workers that you value their contributions to the business.
By getting to the heart of the problem, by talking to them and getting their side of the story, it shows that you respect their opinion and that you trust them enough to give them the opportunity to hear their side.
As we all know, respect begets respect and trust begets trust.
Now that you know why it is essential to have these hard conversations when conflict arises, the next thing you need to know is how to actually have the conversation.
It’s not your typical water cooler chat where you just blurt out whatever comes to mind. It requires preparation and proper execution because you are trying to resolve a conflict here.
You’re not just sharing information about your favorite TV show or what your pet likes to eat for dinner. Every word that’s going to come out of your mouth may have huge impact on your worker. The question now is will it be positive or negative?
The most important part of the conversation is how you begin it because things will go sideways immediately if you start off on the wrong foot.
Before you begin the conversation, make sure you have identified the root of the problem or the main issue at hand. If it’s performance, then stick with performance.
Do not, at any point, branch out to other things like attitude or behavior especially if it has nothing to do with the problem.
This is why hard conversations require preparation because veering away from the real issue will put your motive in question. It will also confuse your worker and take focus off of the main thing that you need them to improve on. Save other things for later conversations.
Know your purpose
Equally important is to be able to identify what the conversation is for. What are you trying to achieve by having this conversation? What is your desired outcome?
By communicating this properly to your workers, you are giving them an idea of what your objective is and how you can get on the same page to resolve the matter at hand.
People will understand better what they’re doing wrong and how to make it right if you will give them an idea of what your vision is like.
Control/Manage your emotions
One of the reasons why we dread confrontation is because of the range of emotions that could present themselves during the conversation.
This is the exact reason why holding difficult conversations requires empathy and courage because you have to be prepared for the unexpected.
Are you brave enough to point out things that can make people react violently or raise their voice? Are you empathetic enough to know how to react when they are driven to tears or get riddled with guilt?
How do you react to these situations? Can you manage to keep yourself calm if you hear something you don’t like?
These are some of the questions you need to ask yourself before “going to battle” because more often than not, conversations like these get out of hand once the emotions of the people involved start getting the best of them.
Don’t take it personally
People like avoiding conflict because it spares us the pain of listening to hurtful criticism and inflicting the same on the other person as well. Like we said earlier, hard conversations tend to turn emotional, and when they do, things can get out of hand.
Whatever criticism or feedback you hear, the most important thing to bear in mind is to not take it personally and to not make your criticisms of the other person get too personal, either.
This is business, and when it comes to business, there’s no room for taking things personally.
If this conversation is about breaking a certain rule or policy, for example, you have to make sure that this rule applies to everyone.
If you’re talking to John because of this infraction, you better make sure you’ll talk to Cathy, too, should she commit the same violation.
There’s nothing more demotivating to a worker than seeing their leader show favoritism. Your reputation as a good leader will also take a hit because as the business owner, you should be fair and show no bias.
You wouldn’t want to be treated unfairly if you were in their shoes would you?
Make the conversation a positive experience
The common misconception is that hard conversations are supposed to be all negative, which is probably the reason why we love avoiding conflict – but that is totally false.
The reason you’re having this conversation is because you are trying to solve a problem and when you’re trying to agree on something, it should be more of a positive experience than a negative one.
Make the conversation aimed at reaching a resolution instead of finding fault. Use positive, encouraging words when pointing out areas for improvement and action plans.
Show empathy and make the conversation more of a consultation than an interrogation.
Holding difficult conversations with your workers is not easy, but that doesn’t make avoiding conflict a better option. Ignoring the problem will not solve anything. Most of the time, it makes the problem much worse.
While it is rather uncomfortable, having hard conversations is important if you want to get the most out of your workers’ skills and productivity.
It is important if you want to keep them happy, and of course, increase your business’ profit.
Not everyone is born confrontational, but as a business owner and a leader, this is something you should learn to do because conflict resolution comes with the job.
You are bound to encounter countless instances of conflicts while running your business.
You need to learn to embrace and stop avoiding conflict because weather you like it or not, you have to face it or risk the possibility of your problems multiplying tenfold.
As the old saying goes, you can run, but you can never hide.
Noel Rosos is a personal development writer, motivational speaker, entrepreneur and founder of Life’s How You Live It, a personal development blog dedicated to helping people live the life they’ve always dreamed of. He is also a writer/contributor for Arianna Huffington’s wellness site, Thrive Global. He is an affiliate marketer, a full-time husband and father, and a self-proclaimed FAILUROLOGIST.