CONFLICT & Giving Feedback When You’re Conflict Averse #HarvardBusinessReview

by Amy Jen Su, Harvard Business Review, 10/13/15.

“Conflict avoiders are generally people who value harmony in the workplace,” writes Amy Gallo in the HBR Guide to Managing Conflict at Work. ”When they sense a disagreement brewing, they will often try to placate the other person or change the topic. These aren’t passive behaviors, but active things they do to prevent conflict from becoming an issue.”

So what do you do if you naturally avoid conflict but a big part of your job is giving difficult performance feedback? When you’re worried about ruffling feathers, how do you provide your direct reports with the input they need to learn and improve?

The first step is acknowledging your conflict aversion. Have you found yourself saying any of the following statements in the last six months?

  • “I believe in giving people chances and investing in them so I want to give this more time.”
  • “I don’t want to crush the person when he is already working so hard. I need him to stay motivated.”
  • “My style tends to be more collegial. I prefer to roll up my sleeves and help out if someone is having trouble.”
  • “The person is so difficult, aggressive, and defensive. I hate that kind of conflict.”

If so, you may be actively avoiding confrontation. Which doesn’t mean that you have to change your core values–maintaining relationship harmony is an important part of any job. But you will need to reframe the way you think about tough feedback. Rather than seeing it as a potential violation of your values, consider how it could be an opportunity to put your values to work. Here are some tips for doing that:

Don’t delay and make things worse… When you find yourself hesitating to share feedback, ask yourself: What is the business context? Does it require a swift decision? Be careful that in the effort to spare the feelings of one individual, you don’t end up hurting the morale of many others…

Be clear and open… To keep your critique from feeling personal, start by sharing the broader business context for why the feedback matters now. Reassure the person that you know their intentions were probably good, but that you do have some observations to share about the effect of their actions…

Get comfortable with uncomfortable emotions… Feedback can potentially lead to disagreement, hurt feelings, or defensiveness. Prepare for tough conversations in advance by playing out possible scenarios so that you’re ready for whatever may occur…

Follow up. Even if the first conversation goes well, you can always offer to be available for further discussion to ensure a fair resolution. Loop back to ensure an optimal outcome has been achieved, both in preserving the message and the relationship…

Read more at … https://hbr.org/2015/08/giving-feedback-when-youre-conflict-averse