In last month’s column, I challenged you to at least consider the idea that you or I may not always be right and the rest of the world may not always be wrong. The next question we’ll often need to ask ourselves when preparing for a tough conversation really ties to the time where we’re putting it off or avoiding it altogether… That question is Am I sure I’m not speaking up because I feel threatened?
All too often, we avoid having what we believe will be a tough conversation with a friend or family member out of concern that addressing certain issues could damage the relationship. And believe it or not, that same reason is one of the most common things Cindy and I see in organizations as well! At one point I thought this was something isolated to entry level supervisory roles and that the person struggling had just never been provided with the tools for dealing with difficult situations. I was wrong! Today we work with everyone from team members who are growing into leadership roles to folks who run huge companies.
The one thing we’ve seen consistently across the board has been that there’s almost always some level of concern leading up to these hard conversations…
In a business setting, especially now with such a tight employment market and high demand for great talent, the main concern tends to be tied to the potential for the team member quitting if their unsatisfactory performance is addressed.
There’s a whole host of reasons that this should never be what keeps us from dealing with poor behavior in the workplace but now’s not the place or time for me to go down that rabbit hole… One thing most of potentially tough business conversations have in common with the hard conversations we occasionally need to have with a friend or family member is the potential for some sort of confrontation – and more specifically – how that confrontation could impact that relationship. Just like with our friends and family, I’ve rarely seen supervisors, managers, or even business owners who care deeply about their team members but avoiding an issue due to fear of confrontation nearly always results in an even bigger and more difficult situation later on – and all too often, it’s not very much later on!
According to a global study done by Conflict Psychology Press, Inc., “employees spend 2.8 hours per week involved in disagreements that disrupt workflow.” That same survey estimates the cost of these disagreements at $359 BILLION and a total of 386 million working days! Robert Townsend, former executive with Avis Rental Cars, addresses those costs this way, “A good leader doesn’t try to eliminate conflict; he tries to keep it from wasting the energies of his people.” For our purposes here, I’ll challenge you (as someone who absolutely can lead in your relationships with friends and family) to work through feeling threatened by preparing for the tough conversations by being intentional about balancing the candor needed to address the specific scenario with the care you have for the individual you’re dealing with. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be ready for the next question to consider – and we’ll look at that in next month’s column.