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Organizational Kryptonite: Fear of Confrontation

When you talk about things that can damage organizational productivity, there's plenty to talk about.  Here's my short list:

1. PoliticsConfrontation

2. Crappy training

3. Bad operational processes

4. Drinking on the job

5. Facebook

6. Pandora


Add the negative impact of all those things up, and I'd bet the cumulative impact doesn't touch one particular factor that sucks more productivity out of organizations than any other.

What's that factor?  FEAR OF CONFRONTATION.

Fear of confrontation is pretty easy to describe.  It's when you don't want to tell someone the truth or be direct, especially if you think the news won't be well-received, or will make someone feel bad about themselves.

You think by giving direct feedback that contains information that might be perceived as negative, you'll turn someone into an enemy.  In an interesting twist, the opposite is often true.  Because the world is full of people who suffer from fear of confrontation, giving good, direct, honest feedback in a professional way is often the best way to stand out as someone who can be trusted.

The next time you avoid a critical conversation because you are afraid or dislike confrontation, fight through it and give the feedback/tell the truth.  Do it professionally and play to the recipient's vanity. Tell them you thought about avoiding the conversation,  but wanted them to have all the information and an honest assessment.  They deserve that, and even though the others won't break it down for them, you will.  You're their agent...

Man up.  Or woman up.  Give the feedback.



Kris...This advice never gets old...I recently wrote about how people are hiding behind technology to avoid confrontation (http://blog.hrinsights.com/2010/04/28/143/)...


Where's the "share this" button on your blog? Good stuff.

Vickey Williams

Kris, another short, sweet and totally on-point post, served up with a dash of humor. Nicely done.

--Down and out with no one to talk to

Kris, I've been working for a company on contract for several years and my boss just let me go through an e-mail message. I've been told by this company that my work is above par but no specific reason was given for letting me go. What do you think about that? Is this just par for the course for being a contract worker?

working girl

And watch the eyebrows! http://ls-workgirl.blogspot.com/2010/06/watch-eyebrows.html

Wally Bock

Right on, Kris. The willingness to confront team members about behavior and performance is one of the important things that a boss has to do. It's also the thing that bosses list as the thing they hate most about their job.

Alas, far too many companies ignore this when they move an individual contributor into a supervisory role. The fact is that if don't demonstrate some willingness to confront others before you become a boss, you're not likely to suddenly become willing once you're anointed. But unwillingness to confront is only annoying when you're an individual contributor. If you're a boss, it's toxic behavior.


I've been told by this company that my work is above par but no specific reason was given for letting me go.

Ryka Shoes

Good points. I think I tend to be more confrontation than I should be.

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Very poor work ethics to inform a worker of their termination by an email!

James Walker

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