How To Deal With Being Conflict-Averse in the Workplace

Leadership behavior is intricately linked with identity. Many leaders identify with being nice. Switch the word nice to amicable or even-keeled, and those terms define an identity that is measured by likeability. The only problem is when a manager’s need to be liked overrides the decision to be respected. That leader simply nods in agreement, appeases or moves the chess pieces around to compensate for the drama — anything but initiate a conversation that might make trigger anger or other uncomfortable emotions.

The dysfunctional mindset: Recently a client said to me, “I just had a conversation as you suggested, but it wasn’t good.” Her mindset was that if the employee becomes angry, hurt or offended, then it must have been a bad conversation. I told her, “Not necessarily.” The sign of a good conversation is when the behavior changes.

Taking employee behaviors personally leads to strong emotions. A high-level leader reached out, asking whether she should just lower her expectations of nonperformers. Her issue was that she was trying to be less critical and less judgmental. In her mind, some of her employees were simply not achievement-oriented. The problem wasn’t her anger, it was her assumptions.

The key: Think like a consultant and question assumptions. You must listen to the reasons (or excuses) an employee gives you for the purpose of pinpointing the root issue. If the problem is clarity, priority or resources, it’s the manager’s job to offer coaching or assistance. If the problem is skill, then it’s either an issue of training or an issue of poor hiring practices. You can fix every problem except for willingness.

Email and texting have made avoidance and aggression easier than ever. Many leaders today hide behind the safety of email rather than confront an important issue up front and in person. (I’ve been appalled at texts and emails I have seen going back and forth among colleagues and business partners.)

Conflict Avoidance and Associated Problems

Challenges of being conflict-averse

Being conflict-averse can have the benefit of helping you prevent unnecessary conflicts from occurring and maintaining a peaceful environment at work, but it can have drawbacks. Although conflict-averse people have good intentions, avoiding confrontation in the moment can cause long-term problems. Some of the primary challenges of being conflict-averse are:

What does it mean to be conflict-averse?

Being conflict-averse means that you have a tendency to avoid disagreements and prefer not to confront issues directly. Conflict-averse people work hard to avoid situations where conflicts could occur in the first place. When problems do arise, conflict-averse individuals can have a difficult time addressing the cause of the conflict. Conflict-averse people can use multiple strategies to diffuse, ignore or prevent conflict:

It can be helpful to reflect on any conflict-avoidant tendencies you have so you can practice more effective ways to work through challenges.

Tips for overcoming conflict aversion

If you have a conflict-averse personality, you can start changing your habits and grow your confidence by practicing these tips:

Imagine positive outcomes

Many conflict-averse people have the habit of imagining all of the bad things that could happen if they brought up a conflict or engaged in a confrontation. Whenever you notice yourself imagining negative scenarios of how a conversation could go, intentionally think about what would happen if the conversation went well. Remove anxiety and stress from the situation by assuming things will go well. Imagining the positive outcomes gives the potential negative outcomes less power and can make it less intimidating to address the conflict.

Identify shared goals

One of the reasons confrontation is difficult for conflict-averse people is because they can assume that the confrontation would negatively impact other people. Spend time thinking about how your point of view could benefit other people involved in the confrontation. Being able to identify your shared goals with the other party can make it easier for you to see the conflict as a necessary, positive step toward more cohesive communication.

For example, if youre frustrated that a colleague always comes into your office without knocking or scheduling an appointment, you may worry that bringing up the conflict will offend them. Remind yourself that talking to your colleague benefits both of you because it sets healthy boundaries and shows your colleague that you respect them enough to be honest.

Practice expressing your desired solution

Give yourself more confidence to approach conflicts by thinking about your desired solution and practicing what you want to say ahead of time. Having a clear idea in your head and knowing what you want out of the situation can help you feel more comfortable bringing up the subject. Approaching others with a solution in mind shows that youre being proactive about improving the situation and are willing to work with others to resolve the conflict.

Speak up for yourself in a safe environment first

It can be stressful to suddenly engage in workplace conflicts when youre used to being conflict-averse in your day-to-day life. Instead of suddenly trying to become a confrontational person, try practicing your conflict-management skills in low-stress situations first. For example, if your friend suggests going out to get sandwiches for lunch but you were planning on getting pizza, invite them to come with you instead of immediately changing your plans. Taking these small steps to practice addressing conflict can make you more comfortable with speaking up for yourself when dealing with larger issues.

Schedule time for discussion

Speaking up in the moment can be especially difficult for conflict-averse people, so start by scheduling time with others dedicated to discussing a conflict. If youre in a meeting and someone suggests an idea you disagree with, ask the group if you can schedule a follow-up to discuss that topic., This gives you time to prepare your thoughts and ensures that no one feels caught off-guard when you bring up the conflict.


What does conflict averse mean?

Being conflict-averse means that you have a tendency to avoid disagreements and prefer not to confront issues directly. Conflict-averse people work hard to avoid situations where conflicts could occur in the first place.

What do u call someone who avoids conflict?

pacifist Add to list Share. A person who opposes the use of war or violence to settle a dispute is called a pacifist. If you are a pacifist, you talk through your differences with others instead of fighting.

How does an avoidant deal with conflict?

Someone with an avoidant attachment is quick to withdraw from the relationship at the first sign of conflict and may label someone who is trying to address an issue with them as “needy” or “pushy.” A person with this attachment style might tell themselves, “I didn’t really care that much for them, and I’m better off …

What is avoidance conflict style?

The Avoiding Style is when you do not satisfy your concerns or the concerns of the other person. This style is low assertiveness and low cooperativeness. The goal is to delay. It is appropriate to use this style when there are issues of low importance, to reduce tensions, or to buy time.

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