The Benevolence of Confrontation

I know it’s not often that you hear confrontation referred to as a gift but when used properly it is a powerful management tool.  If you are in any type of leadership position, you know there are times when confrontation is essential to your business.  So with all the talk about avoiding confrontation, why is confrontation good?

We spend a lot of time talking about how to avoid confrontation.  On the flip side, we rarely talk about how to confront people to create positive outcomes in the workplace or in your business.  We fear confrontation so that we don’t hurt people’s feelings or rock the boat.  When it comes down to it, it’s much easier to be the “so-called” nice guy/gal rather than be the jerk.  However, let me run you through a couple of scenarios and you can judge for yourself which you would prefer.

Scenario #1

You have been working with a company for a couple of years.  You aren’t sure what direction your career is headed but no one has really talked to you about doing poorly so you figure that no news is good news.  The only feedback you get is the occasional, hollow sounding, “good job”.  Your manager is a real “players coach”.  He gets along with people really well and everyone likes him.  In your mind, you think he is the best manager you have ever had.  Always agreeable, always nice, always telling you that you are doing great.

Then one day your manager calls you into his office.  You see the look on his face and know there is a problem even though your manager is having a hard time spitting it out.  As it turns out your performance has been below standard and the company needs to let you go as a result.  When you ask for specifics, you get a laundry list of things that you have been doing wrong that no one has mentioned up until now.  Unfortunately, you have no time to correct it because you’re fired.  All you get now is a sorry from your manager and box to put your stuff in.  Nice.

Scenario #2

You start with a new firm and you are a little nervous as is everyone who starts in a new position.  Your boss sits you down day one and lays out expectations that they have for you and she also asks you for your goals that you want to attain with the company.  Day 2 you fall short of the assigned expectations for that day and your new boss comes over to your desk after the day is over to see how you did.  She hears how you fell short of expectations and makes you stay that night until you hit the expectations that you have been given.  You drive home that night looking at the hour and a half of overtime that you just worked and can’t believe what a hard ass your boss was on just your second day!

A funny thing happens to you over the course of the next year.  Since you know the score very well and what’s expected of you on a day-to-day basis, your performance has been getting better and better.  In fact, you not only get a raise but you also hear that if you keep it up, you are in line for a promotion.  Your boss isn’t always buddy buddy with you but she has you on track to hitting your goals.

These 2 scenarios certainly seem extreme but as a leader the difference between someone succeeding or failing in your organization is your leadership.   How you confront poor performance is an important part of great leadership. In the end, who would you rather the work for?  The nice guy who helped you get fired or the manager that isn’t afraid to draw a hard line because they aren’t willing to compromise your success?  The above scenarios have varying degrees to them for sure.  These scenarios can also be used in your personal relationships, parenting etc.

It all comes down to creating the right conditions in your life as well as other people’s lives.  Confrontation allows you to not only be more successful but it also allows for the people around you to be more successful also.   You are able to create better teamwork and come up with better solutions to problems.  We will be talking about the right way to confront over the next few days.  In the meantime, what are your thoughts on confrontation? What has been your experience with confrontation good or bad?

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