Three Dysfunctional Traits
Avoidance, appeasement, and aggressiveness are the three maladaptive actions that leaders adopt to escape discomfort.
“We’re all adults,” avoiders say, and “I shouldn’t have to inform them.”
Top-conflict conduct is justified by appeasers because “they are a high performer” or “they have seniority.”
Aggressors respond by saying, “I didn’t invite you to work here.
“Look for another job.”
Some leaders avoid unpleasant confrontations because they are frightened of their aggressiveness, don’t want to make someone cry, or believe they are “nice leaders.”
Yelling at an employee (aggression) will not help their performance or establish trust, although some bosses continue to do so.
At the moment, releasing anger feels wonderful and relieves some of the sufferings.
To get a high-powered salesman off the phone, we tell him we’ll consider the product next year (appeasing).
We give people what they want to hear rather than participating in a long dialogue in which they may choose an argument.
When you think about it, it’s all about avoiding… avoiding feelings, avoiding advancing the dialogue, avoiding personal accountability, and avoiding personal progress.
Avoidance is used to escape discomfort, or in the case of violence, to unleash the building of discomfort.
“You have to stop focusing on your past and focus forward for your growth. You owe it to yourself, to your employee, and your organization.” -Marlene Chism
Some leaders are well aware that they avoid and despise conflict.
The rest of us are unaware of how much we prefer comfort over accountability.
For example, are you excited to go back on the scale after a weekend of binge eating?
Neither do I.
But the point is, whether you like it or not, the facts are what they are.
You can avoid having an accountability session with a nonperforming salesperson who isn’t earning any money.
In that instance, you’re prioritising comfort above advancement for both yourself and the nonperformer.
You may deny that there is a bully in your department, but the bully is still creating toxicity that is about to explode—whether you realise it or not.
Consider the following:
Am I treading carefully to avoid the bully?
Are you avoiding them because they are otherwise a good performer?
Half the battle is figuring out why you aren’t addressing the issue.
Looking ahead is a great motivator.
What happens if you continue to avoid it?
Choosing small comforts now often means accepting a future crisis.
“I already know what they’re going to say,” managers frequently say as an excuse for not having a conversation.
They don’t know because the conversation hasn’t yet occurred.
What they do know is what they have done in the past, but when we make these assumptions, we are choosing an experience over a future possibility.
This habit of “already knowing” is detrimental to our personal and professional development.
You must shift your focus away from the past and toward the future to grow.
You owe it to yourself, your employees, and your company.
Denial and rationalisation only make matters worse in the long run.
You’ll have to climb Mud Hill at some point, and it might as well be today.
“The distinction between avoiding and appeasing is subtle: when you avoid, employees are in the dark.” -Marlene Chism
The difference between both avoiding and appeasing is subtle: avoiding leaves employees in the dark.
They can’t tell if you forgot or are simply afraid to have the conversation.
Employees may think you’re nice if you appease; they may think you agree when you don’t; they may think you’re interested when you’re not.
Appeasing someone is telling them what they want to hear to get the problem off your plate.
It feels good to see their eyes sparkle when you tell them something they want to hear if you’re a “people person.”
Finally, appeasing erodes trust.
How many times has your boss said to you, “Good idea!
“I’ll get back to you,” but they didn’t.
Let’s look into appeasing.
Assume you disagree with a coworker, but instead of saying “I disagree” and inviting discussion, you say, “You make some excellent points, but I have a meeting.”
Let’s talk about it later.”
Do you intend to return to the subject later, or is it more convenient to let it go?
Most of us use appeasing at least occasionally—for example, when you don’t want to disappoint someone when they ask you to work on a project, be on a board, volunteer for a committee, or do whatever with them.
You are honoured, but your gut is screaming “NOOOOO!”
However, you want them to like you.
You don’t have the energy to listen to their attempts to persuade you, so you say yes.
Yes felt good at the time, but once the high wears off, you feel resentful and misaligned.
You decide to withdraw later.
You just need to concoct a white lie that they’ll believe: your mother is ill.
Your adolescent is having a nervous breakdown.
You don’t want to delay the project because your car is in the shop.
“Perhaps next time,” you say, feigning regret in your voice.
All of these behaviours help to alleviate the discomfort you feel when your decisions are out of sync.
“Aggression can be a sign that the individual has reached their capacity.” -Marlene Chism
Then there’s the aggressiveness.
Eye-rolling, silent treatment, bad glances, innuendos, sneering, telling someone off, throwing someone in their place in front of others, name-calling, threats, voice-raising, fist-pounding, wrath, and violence are all examples of aggression.
I’ll be completely honest here.
I’ve had to practise eye-rolling and sarcasm, and I’ve had to raise my voice several times.
I find that I am most violent when I have been worrying about something for an extended period and have had the conversation in my thoughts rather than with the other person.
Simply ask my spouse.
He’ll say yes.
Remember my employer, whom I mentioned in the last chapter?
He didn’t play games, and he didn’t undercut, roll his eyes, or offer foul glances.
No, he was forthright.
He was impolite and defensive.
He seemed to see every criticism as a personal threat rather than an employee caring about what was going on.
He made dismissive remarks rather than truly listening to issues.
Aggression might indicate that someone has reached their limit.
They’ve most likely been stewing over something for a long time, and their emotions are boiling over.
Or they have unresolved grudges, or their bodily needs aren’t being addressed, and they’re fatigued, hungry, or overworked.
When we’re at our limit, we deploy one or two of our conflict-resolution tools: humiliating, threatening, or some other strategy.
What’s fascinating is that aggressive types, like the inexperienced managers I mentioned before, frequently believe they’re skilled at dealing with conflict.
They say things like, “The buck stops here,” but what they mean is that they know how to avoid having serious dialogues without being labelled as such.
The point is, they’re just as uncomfortable with disagreement as the one who avoids or appeases; they simply go about it differently.
My objective after noticing these tendencies was to determine the core source of conflict mishandling.
I used to believe that the trend was caused by a lack of skill improvement.
This is when I would go inside an organisation and deliver the sought service: a workshop.
The workshop might work for a time, but the patterns would return, or, worse, a manager would try to course correct an employee only to have their director override them.
Whatever training is provided, it will not be enough to overcome a culture in which top executives override their managers’ decision-making.
Top executives may believe they must micromanage because their subordinates are bogged down in the details, but there is a reason for this: the culture.
On the flip hand, even when the culture enables responsible talks, the absence of skills development might cause some ugly course corrections.
If a kind boss in a supportive atmosphere that encourages skill development lacks inner fortitude and bravery, difficulties will inevitably arise.
So, what is the source of avoidance?
Inexperience, lack of skill development, character, or personality?
It’s a lack of dispute resolution skills.