Exposing The Inexcusable

One of the most pervasive problems within executive ranks is the frequency with which managers avoid conflict. Even those who sincerely want to make a change can be stymied by a seemingly insurmountable roster of obstacles. This article presents a compendium of their excuses and attempts to dismantle each by revealing the .awed thinking embedded within.

EXCUSE NO. 1: I'm just not good at conflict.

So get good at it. The need to improve your conflict-resolution skills doesn't justify avoiding it in the present. Try this four-step formula when addressing your adversary: "When you ____; I feel ____; because ____; therefore ____ .

EXCUSE NO. 2: If I don't feel it, it doesn't exist.

If you're refusing to act because you've experienced no ill effects from others' conflict, you should understand that your immunity doesn't invalidate others' pain. As the boss, you have a fiduciary responsibility to facilitate resolution among feuding subordinates whether it's affecting you or not.

EXCUSE NO. 3: If I ignore it, it'll go away.

I call this the ostrich mentality. You can certainly stick your head in the sand, but not without simultaneously offering up what — for most of us — is a much larger alternative target. And it will be much easier to hit because you're standing still! Ignoring con.ict just increases your risk.

EXCUSE NO. 4: If I confront it, the conflict will get worse.

When managers tell me why they think confronting conflict will make it worse, their reasons are more often based on assumptions than on actual experience. Are you making negative assumptions about what would happen if you confronted conflict in order to justify inaction.

EXCUSE NO. 5: It's not urgent, and I have other priorities.

Are you feigning other priorities to justify not having to deal with conflict? Conflict doesn't have to be urgent to poison the work environment. If you allow low-grade hostilities to continue unchecked, they'll fester, infecting every functional activity and resulting in considerable productivity losses.

EXCUSE NO. 6: Solving their interpersonal problems isn't a good use of my time.

Then perhaps you should consider giving up the managerial function.

EXCUSE NO. 7: People should be able to solve their own conflicts without involving me.

Telling those at an impasse they should be able to solve it themselves isn't helpful. Try getting each party to answer briefly the following questions regarding their conflict: What's true right now? What would be the impact if nothing changes. Now what are your recommendations? This process usually unearths similar suggestions.

EXCUSE NO. 8: I don't want to be the "heavy."

Being the "heavy" is in your job description and it is part of the weight your rank confers. Be willing to carry it, or step aside and let someone lead who's willing to lead responsibly.

EXCUSE NO. 9: I don't care enough about the people involved in this conflict to want to fix it.

Then work somewhere else! Don't kid yourself into thinking that others can't sense your toxic disdain. You also need to realize that your passive aggressive behavior is probably a major part of the problem.

EXCUSE NO. 10: If I were to confront the conflict, I wouldn't be able to control my emotions.

Maturity involves giving up the luxury of behaving the way you feel. Learning to subordinate emotions to the achievement of targeted results is a key requirement for successful management and leadership.

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