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The 4-Step Process to Overcoming Your Fears of Conflict

It’s a storyline that plays out every day among managers:
•A model employee fails to meet his or her goals.
•An everlasting high-achiever suddenly hits a plateau.
•A new team member is skeptical to take the actions necessary for success.
•A seasoned veteran hit rock bottom and has become your worst nightmare.
Feelings of inadequacy in conflict resolution are at the heart of these problems.

If you think a lack of conflict management isn’t costing your company money, think again.
Imagine you have 45 managers of varying departments. You look at the bottom 50% and start measuring them more closely or decide they need management training. You send them to a one-day seminar, thinking that will have an impact. It doesn’t.

Six months later, you send the low achievers to another one. Usually these one-day sessions make a slight difference at first, but the result is short-lived. You haven’t addressed the real problem. You’ve addressed one of the symptoms. Feelings of inadequacy begin early in life and are at the center of conflict-avoidance among managers in the workplace.

The 4-Step Process to Resolving Inadequacy
Here are five steps that you can take with your team — or with yourself — to begin to bring forward the real issue. If needed, create a four-column scorecard. Each step below represents its own column.

Step 1: Isolate the Fear
No one wants to admit they have fears. As a manager, you may feel suspicious if someone was to ask you in what areas of your job do you experience fear? This feeling can be manifested in the form of pressure. Make a list if those areas of dealing with employee conflicts in your department where you feel the most pressure. Is it during the initial stage of accepting that conflict is imminent? Is it at the conversation stage? Is it when others object to your suggestions? Is it when you feel the labor laws and your Human Resource department always work against your decisions? Address these potential sources of fear in column 1. If you feel pressure in managing your staff and resolving ongoing conflicts, fear is lurking around the corner.

Step 2: Do a Reality Check
In Column 2, ask yourself, “How real is this fear?” Meaning, is the fear likely to come to fruition? Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen to me if I take action?” Going through this reality check typically shows you that your deepest fears are illusions. Most important factor here is to make informed decisions that you can stand by.

Step 3: Purposefully Reframe Each Fear
Take each Pressure or Fear and reframe it. If calling out unwanted behavior is your pressure point, look at it through a new lens. It’s not an opportunity for making employees feel bad or inadequate — it’s an opportunity to help them identify a serious problem and solve it. If are unwilling to share with them areas where they can improve, you can’t help them. Once you purposely reframe the purpose for your interference, no longer will you feel pressure.

Step 4: Pay Continuous Attention to Triggers
If you reinforce this exercise, you will keep yourself from going down the dark hole of inadequacy. Notice the triggers. When you get that feeling of hesitation or pressure, recognize that you just aren’t thinking about your approach in the right way. It might take a few seconds. But it happens quickly. Remember, every time to take the opportunity to coach-in-the grass and voice a concern with an employee, you’re exercising your leadership role. You’re helping a team member to become better at what they do.

You have the ability to succeed wildly in your management role. You have unique solutions that need to be introduced in the workplace. But you won’t be able to communicate those ideas if you’re hiding behind a persona. Address the illusion of fear that stems from inadequacy in order to shed the persona.

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