Consultants' Conflict - When To Avoid Conflicts and Addressing Problems

Whenever we deal with people there will be conflict. No one is perfect and no matter how "rational" business is supposed to be, it is very emotional. Why? Because we pore our heart and souls into our work. And anyone who tells you otherwise is not in touch with reality or someone you don't want on your team or working for you.

There are many times when you want to avoid conflict. And they deal with your emotions and the other party's emotions. You never want to sweep conflict under the rug. You have to address it. And the rule of thumb is; to address sooner, rather than later.

So when do you avoid conflict? Here are some guidelines:

  1. When you are pissed off. Goes without saying doesn't it? But this is usually when we hit conflicts head on. This absolutely the wrong time to do this however, and we all know it.
  2. When we have had little sleep. Our jobs sometimes require us to be up late at night and early in the morning. But sleep deprivation is a huge issue today and it makes us do things we normally would not do. In fact, it is directly related to #1 above. Little sleep, allows us to slip into anger very quickly.
  3. When there are multiple parties in the room. Depending on the situation, the rule of thumb should be to take it off line. This allows you the ability to be direct and not look like you are showing off for the others in the room.
  4. When you are not prepared. Preparation not to allow the conversation to get into a "he said, she said" situation. Preparation means having the facts, and having a game plan to disengage.
  5. When the other party is any of the above. Give them notice. Allow them to prepare too. This is not a "I win" and "I take the spoils" discussion. Know your aim. What do you want to have happen? What is your goal? Give the other party a chance to talk and defend and explain. Be open. Your perception can be totally off base. Preparation is the key for this.
  6. Over email. Never address things over email. Email sucks.
  7. Without consideration of the question; "How important is this?" Go after big things. Little things can be secondary.

Conflict avoidance is not conducive to a good working environment. But there are some people who stink at addressing conflict and see it as an emotional affront to their professionalism. In fact, some people may hide behind a statement of "this is unprofessional" which is usually a cloak to hide behind and not wanting to address the real issue whereby they do have something to hide.

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