Avoid… Address… Attack…

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July 2008

Avoid… Address… Attack…

When you are faced with conflict or unmet needs/expectations, would you say that more often then not you tend to avoid? Or do you attack? Nearly every organizational environment in which I have practiced shares a distinct common denominator. When faced with conflict or competing needs, most executives, leaders or entrepreneurs choose either to go into avoid mode or they choose the polar opposite, they choose the attack mode. It usually seems to be an either-or choice.
When choosing to avoid conflict a person is willing to subordinate their needs or goals to keep-the-peace. The problem with the avoid mode is that little productive information or understanding is likely to be exchanged and the person choosing avoid is left with unmet needs and often an aftertaste of resentment. Nothing has changed so it is likely similar scenarios re-emerge. Since little productive information is exchanged, lower quality output is a likelihood.

At the opposite end of the continuum is the choice to attack. This is a combat-ready choice. Perhaps influenced by behavioral style, perhaps by cultural norm, the person choosing attack mode is immediately heard. Depending upon their political or psychological status, the attacker may or may not achieve the results for which they confront. Just as with avoid mode, little productive information is exchanged. Understanding and quality problem solving are at low levels.

As opposite as avoid and attack may first appear on the surface, they both really are quite similar. From a net outcomes standpoint these polar extremes share similarities such as; isolation, low quality output, low relationship building, poor information flow and low residual and organizational benefit.

There is an antidote and it’s best characterized by a third A-word. It is found in a range near the middle of the continuum and that is address. Address is an advanced set of adult skills seldom taught in organizations. With the exception of Leader Effectiveness Training© (L.E.T.), many leadership skill-suites miss the mark. Unmanaged conflict at both ends of the continuum costs American business billions of dollars a year in lost productivity, absenteeism and unwanted attrition.

When we do choose to address, rather than avoid/attack, we almost always come out of the interchange feeling considerably better. So do those around us both at work and at home.


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