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You Should Not Avoid Confrontation

Confrontation is not a dirty word. Sometimes it’s the best kind of journalism as long you don’t confront people just for the sake of a confrontation.

~Don Hewitt
Confrontation is one of those things that almost every manager hates. Fearing that an employee may “lose it” or act out, many managers will delay confrontation or even avoid it altogether. As uncomfortable as confrontation is, however, the cost of avoiding it is often very high. 
One manager had an employee who was very difficult to deal with. She would get so angry when confronted that her managers would just transfer her out of their departments to avoid the unpleasant duty. By doing this, they had given her all the control.
Her attitude was getting worse and worse, and she was beginning to affect the morale of the team. Things had gotten so bad that her new manager knew he could not let it go on. He knew he had to have a talk with her or risk undermining his effectiveness as a leader.
Before speaking to the employee about her problems, he met with HR to determine the best way to approach the situation. They agreed that the manager and head of HR would meet with the employee in the HR offices. They determined that they would let her vent, but if she raised her voice or used any profanity, they would warn her that if she continued, she would be sent home without pay as allowed in their employee manual.
The manager was very apprehensive about the meeting, but he knew it was the right thing to do. Something had to be done to correct this employee’s bad behavior.
When the employee arrived at the meeting, the manager and head of HR told her they wanted to talk to her about her attitude and performance. She immediately became indignant, saying this was a personal attack. As they had planned, the manager and head of HR allowed her to vent for a couple of minutes, and she began to calm down. She realized she was in real danger of losing her job and she was not doing herself any good by acting this way.
The manager was stern but kind. Once the employee calmed, he explained that her behavior—not her—was the issue and that she could change this if she wanted to. Alternatively, she could continue the bad behavior and be let go.
Ultimately, the employee had to be let go because she just could not change her behavior. However, even though the outcome was not what they had hoped it would be, this was a discussion that had to happen. Confronting the problem allowed it to run its course, and in the end, the manager was relieved the situation had been resolved.
Related Article: Conflict is Unavoidable
Confrontation is always tough, but allowing bad behavior to continue is so much tougher. If you have been avoiding an employee issue because you are afraid of a confrontation, face up to the problem and move forward. Staff issues cannot be ignored, and confrontation is absolutely necessary when other approaches have failed to correct the problem.
You can do this.
Published: December 12, 2014

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Jerry Osteryoung

Jerry Osteryoung is a consultant to businesses—he has directly assisted over 3,000 firms. He is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship (Emeritus) and Professor of Finance (Emeritus) at Florida State University. He was the founding Executive Director of the Jim Moran Institute and served in that position from 1995 through 2008. His latest book, coauthored with Tim O’Brien, “If You Have Employees, You Really Need This Book,” is a bestseller on Amazon. Email Jerry @ jerry.osteryoung@gmail.com

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