MAN205 Week 4 Discussion 2

When can it be a good thing to avoid conflict? Give specific examples.

As a first-line supervisor at a technology company, Kendra encountered her share of conflict. She tried to be as indirect as possible when addressing the conflict. For example, in weekly meetings with her team of employees, Kendra regularly brought up topics she knew her employees were struggling with. She’d discovered that bringing up conflict situations without being too specific allowed everyone to discuss the conflict without anyone feeling singled out. Kendra thought she was doing it to avoid making her employees feel uncomfortable—and that may have been part of it—but one day she realized that she was mostly doing it for herself. She did not like conflict. And although her indirect approach often worked because employees ended up discussing their disagreements and working out solutions in a safe space, it was not always successful. Kendra finally recognized her conflict-avoidance strategies for what they were—and she immediately started researching what to do. She also talked with her mentor about it. This proved to be quite helpful.

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Kendra’s mentor pointed out what research suggested: Conflict avoidance was unhealthy, and supervisors who avoided conflict ended up making things worse for their employees—and for the organization in general. When supervisors overlooked conflict or waited to address it in hopes that it would resolve itself, the result was usually that the conflict got worse. Employees took things into their own hands by going over supervisors’ heads to their bosses. Or employees who were not involved in the conflict became frustrated because their good work habits were being undermined by other employees who were in conflict with each other. This affected the morale of the team, and some of the best workers either stopped performing at their best or left the organization to work elsewhere. Kendra’s mentor gave Kendra some suggestions for how to stop avoiding conflict:

Check your conflict metaphors.
Kendra’s mentor gave her a simple exercise: Create a list of metaphors for conflict. Kendra’s list looked like this:

Conflict is a battle.
Conflict is a game where there is only one winner.
Conflict is a problem that needs to be solved.
When her mentor drew attention to the fact that Kendra’s metaphors cast conflict in a negative light, Kendra began reconsidering what conflict really was. After much thought and research, Kendra composed a new metaphor list:

Conflict is a puzzle that everyone works on together.
Conflict is a dance where both partners need to lead and follow at times.
Conflict is a negotiation, and all parties discuss the terms until a positive agreement can be reached.
Consider the big picture.
Kendra’s mentor challenged Kendra to examine how her conflict-avoidance habits were affecting her leadership. This helped Kendra put things into perspective. Yes, avoiding conflict might seem to help a few employees “save face,” but over time this strategy ended up negatively impacting the quality of workplace harmony for everyone else. The ultimate reality was that Kendra made things worse in the end when she did not take steps to resolve conflict.

Be brave and selfless.
This advice helped Kendra see that her conflict-avoidance behavior was cowardly and selfish. In an attempt to avoid uncomfortable situations, Kendra had been inadvertently hurting her team. Kendra determined to consider the needs of her team above her own level of comfort. This was her first step toward seeing conflict not as a bad thing, but as a natural part of working with a diverse group of people. Kendra decided that she would do the right thing instead of the easy thing. She would resolve conflict before it grew to be unmanageable—even if that meant stepping out of her comfort zone to help create a safe, productive workplace for everyone else.

Resources and References

Brearly, B. (n.d.). Conflict avoidance destroys leadership. Learn how to fix it. Thoughtful Leader. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtfulleader.com/conflict-avoidance/ (Links to an external site.)

Comaford, C. (September 8, 2018). Are you killing your career by avoiding conflict? Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/christinecomaford/2018/09/08/are-you-killing-your-career-by-avoiding-conflict/#33f49cf616b5 (Links to an external site.)

Davey, L. (March 27, 2019). Why you should stop avoiding conflict in the workplace. Fast Company. Retrieved from https://www.fastcompany.com/90325341/why-conflict-is-good-in-the-workplace

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