In my article, Confronting Conflict, I talked about some of the things I’d learned about dealing with conflict in the workplace, specifically in my role as a business owner and manager.
A comment from reader Alison Friedman got me thinking about what confrontation looks like when it is done well. She noted that my tips were all about what NOT to do. So, here are a few tips on WHAT to do when confronting – and HOW to do it.
Some things TO DO
1) Take the bull by the horns
- Say what needs to be said
- Try to do it quickly (but not if you’re angry)
- Do it in a caring way – i.e. This is for your good and the company’s good
- Try to make it constructive – i.e., Here are some things you can work on, Here’s how to deal with this next time.
2) Make people talk to each other
If there are squabbles between two colleagues, first try to get them to work it out together. I’ve found this extremely difficult in Chinese culture (talking about it means admitting a problem). If you must, sit with the two people and try to help them talk AND listen to each other.
3) Do it every time
The last thing you want is for an employee to be making mistakes; meanwhile you’re watching and internally grumbling about it – but saying nothing. If you’re grumbling – you need to say something NOW. Because otherwise, it’ll all build up – and one day it’s going to explode (destructive rather than constructive).
How to confront in a constructive manner:
1) TSF (Timely Specific Feedback)
A couple years ago, some friends were sharing about a concept they used within their organization – a concept called TSF. Timely – in that you tell people within a timely (or short) period. Specific – meaning, don’t say “Great job out there.” But say, “Hey, I liked it when you asked that question, because people really engaged and discussed it.”
- TSF is for both positive AND negative feedback. And THE GREAT THING about giving positive TSF is that when the time comes for negative TSF, the person is much more likely to listen to you because there has been a build-up of trust and caring.
2) Ask questions
You can ask questions about the situation or problem, the person’s current emotional status (things at home can affect things at work), happiness with his/her position, health, etc,
- Sometimes gaining a better understanding of the situation or the background will help with the confronting process.
How do you give constructive feedback?
What do you think of the concept of TSF?
What have been responses when you’ve had to confront – did certain things make it better or worse?