HR Issues

February 29, 2012

Written by: Joseph D'Allesandro

If you lead a company, a property, a kitchen, or a team of any size, you do not have the luxury of being “non-confrontational.” If you are working toward a goal, that means you and your team are being stretched to perform at higher levels. That will produce stress and expose weaknesses. As the leader you cannot allow such stresses to keep you from achievement, and therefore you will have to…ahem…confront them.

Confrontation does not have to be a combat. It shouldn’t be. You can make it a compromise, even in under the most difficult circumstances. Here are five simple steps to move from combat to compromise:

1. Define the Goal
The main reasons for a confrontational discussion are violations of policy, procedure or ethics. Once you know that a situation calls for a confrontation (“a face-to-face meeting” or “clash of ideas” according to Merriam-Webster), be certain to have absolute clarity about what boundary was crossed, why that is a problem, and what is your goal for the outcome.

You need to have a “mini-vision” for why you are calling the meeting. You need to see the end result and the positive outcome whether that is mentoring your team member, improving performance, or ensuring adherence to policy and ethical practice.

2. Consider the Facts
It is critical to remove emotions and personal convictions. Success is in the facts, not the feelings. If you are in your emotions and convictions, you risk causing a dysfunctional argument instead of an objective mutual-growth situation.

Beware of prejudice. Do not pre-judge based on innuendo or rumor, even when from a trusted source. Give your colleague the benefit of the doubt. There is always the possibility that you are wrong.

3. Be Clear About The Issue and Stay On Point
Though you may need to ask some preliminary questions to understand the situation, once you hit the heart of the matter, let there be no ambiguity. Reinforce by asking the other party if they understand the reason for the discussion. If they try to sidestep or introduce other issues, bring them back to the reason for the meeting.

Here are some examples of how to respectfully to stay on point:
• “I realize it might be uncomfortable for you to have this discussion. It’s not easy for me either. But if we don’t work through this we’ll just have bigger and bigger problems down the road, and neither of us wants that, right?”
• “I respect your opinion about that, and we can discuss that later today or tomorrow, but right now we need to address ‘x,’ okay?”
• “Your input on that matters to me, and I welcome it. Let’s block some time to go over that. What we really need to focus on now is “x.” Can we get back to that?”

4. Listen More Than You Speak
Listen intently, because they have the right to be heard and if you want respect you have to give respect. This situation calls for your very best interpersonal and communication skills because your body language and facial expressions will tell the other party how you really feel.

If you shut them down with words or body language, you will exasperate the problem and cause further division rather than coaching and teambuilding. Here is a quick comparison:

eye contact
arms at side
head still or nodding
body leaning forward

eye rolls
arms folded
head shaking
body slumped

5. Propose a Solution and Close the Loop
Once the issue has been talked-through, propose a solution or reiterate the policy, procedure, or ethical boundary. Ask for their agreement and commitment to rectify the situation. Restate and record the mutually-agreed plan. Shake hands and agree to monitor the progress.

Now I know every confrontation is not going to be smooth and civil, because no two personalities are the same. But if you remain calm, give respect, listen intently, and stay on point, you can be consistent and turn confrontations from combative experiences into exercises in mentoring and teambuilding.


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