The Problems With Conflict Aversion
Conflict is inevitable. It’s just a question of whether we want to deal with it on the micro or macro level.
It's 10 a.m., and the client meeting is in an hour. The team has reviewed its presentation and everything is ready to go.
Then, Megan chimes in with an idea: The PowerPoint would look better if the slides were green instead of blue.
Chris doesn’t like the green look at all, but he doesn’t want to ruffle feathers and offend Megan. So he passively says, “Sure, we could try that.”
But when the presentation begins, the slides are hard to see, and the new look is incredibly unappealing to the coveted clients. Afterward, Megan is annoyed it didn’t go well, and Chris is mad about Megan’s poor idea.
Recently, business strategist and psychologist Liane Davey detailed the many ways in which conflict aversion does more harm than good on “The Pursuit of Learning Podcast” with Clint Murphy.
Conflict aversion causes:
1. Issues to fester
2. Resentment to build
3. Grudges to develop
Long term, the effects within our team are far worse. It leads to:
-A tolerance for underperformance
-Failing to prioritize
-People losing their tempers
Ultimately, Davey believes conflict is inevitable. It’s just a question of whether we want to deal with it on the micro or macro scale.
“It’s a little bit more like flossing every day and a lot less like needing a root canal every once in a while,” she said. “If you don’t like conflict, that’s a great reason not to get into conflict debt.”
Most people shy away from disagreement because they worry that the other party will take a suggestion or criticism personally. But the right level of challenge and push back is a means of getting the inevitable to the forefront while it’s still manageable with cooler heads involved.
This doesn’t mean we should pick a fight with everyone we have a different opinion than or become overbearing if something isn’t perfectly to our liking.
But for teams to have sustained success, they must be able to openly disagree and speak candidly about poor ideas and strategies that aren’t likely to be effective.
Short-term disagreement may be just what's needed for our own team's long-term success.