We all face difficult situations in our lives. Whether they happen at work or in our personal life, most of us try to avoid them because we don’t like conflict. In my experience, these conversations are difficult even for those who don’t mind conflict, because they often feel ill-equipped to have these conversations. Perhaps even worse, is when people are unaware that they lack the skills to navigate these situations well.
Take Phil and Joan, for example. They borrowed money from Phil’s widowed mom for a business venture that ended up in bankruptcy. Although Joan and her mother-in-law had been very close, their relationship became strained when Joan, unbeknownst to her mother-in-law, felt the pressure from her to pay the loan back. Years went by without them making amends until one day, Joan’s mother-in-law had the courage to call Joan and ask her why she didn’t visit very often. When Joan’s mother-in-law understood Joan’s perception of the situation, she had the opportunity to clarify that she wasn’t expecting repayment of the loan. They were able to discuss the situation and come to an agreement that suited both of them.
Another example happened with a mid-sized company looking to expand into the global market. Although the CEO said with her words that she wanted feedback and alternative opinions, her actions proved otherwise. She would be critical of other people’s opinions that were contrary to hers and often got more aggressive in her language when other people offered different opinions. As a result, when the time came for discussions about business expansion, the CFO withheld his opinion that the timing wasn’t right to expand. The vitals of the company were not strong enough and in his opinion, it would put the company in a very vulnerable position moving ahead. Without that information, the CEO made the decision to go ahead with the expansion. The result was that the expansion was premature and the company lost money. A lot of money.
There is a significant cost to organizations when these crucial conversations don’t happen. It negatively affects employee morale, impedes the progress of individual projects, and even puts the success of future projects in jeopardy.
These conversations take courage and skill to have effectively. If you open yourself to the idea that situations can improve by gaining a deeper understanding of team member’s perspectives, even those with opposing views, you will be in a better position to problem solve. Team members will feel heard and respected. The pay-off will be a better functioning team and higher levels of success for your organization.