Top 10 Tips for Healthy Confrontation


By Shaun Notcutt

1) Confront the person on the side: A sure way to make your team members feel unvalued and embarrassed is by confronting them in front of the rest of your team. In doing this you are now building a culture that cuts people down, and you won’t have any creativity. Rather take the person to the side and confront them privately. You will gain respect and trust by doing this.

2) Confront immediately: Once a team member has done something that needs to be confronted, confront them! There is nothing more damaging than a leader who does not confront because of fears, or because they think the problem will go away. What you are conveying to your team when you do not confront them is that you actually don’t care enough about them to see them improve. People want to know how they can improve, even if the process is a bit awkward.

3) Don’t overload them with a list of issues: Make sure you address one issue at a time. It can feel like the team member is being attacked when you list all of the things that they did wrong. You want to be respected, so address an issue, find the solution that will work for both or you, and then address the next one.

4) Make a point and don’t repeat it: This happens especially when leaders want the person they are confronting to know the severity of the issue at hand. I know this might be hard to do (because you want them to realise the stupidity of the choice they made!), but don’t do it. You can make the team member feel like a small child and they can grow to resent you in this way.

5) Work with changeable actions: Sometimes you will have to know that a team member is unable to change certain things. You need to mindful of this as a leader. By asking a team member to change something they are unable to actually do, they will become annoyed within your relationship.

6) Stay away from sarcasm: Many leaders use sarcasm on their team members. This could be a defence mechanism they have learnt through experiences in their life, but it is so damaging to team bonding. When you are sarcastic, you are showing the team member that you are angry with them and not what they did. Your team members can become bitter towards you because of this.

7) Stay away from definitives such as "always" and "never": When you say statements such as “This always happens with you. You never do this” etc. you are creating problems for yourself. When you do this, it takes away from the accuracy of your statements and can cause your team members to become defensive.

8) Turn your criticisms into suggestions or questions: Let’s say your staff is at a teambuilding afternoon and one team member has a massive verbal fight with someone else in front of the rest of your staff team. How do you deal with that? Why not ask them some questions? Ask them how they feel they could have expressed what they were feeling at the time in a different way, or ask them how the rest of the team felt when this was going on.

9) Don’t be apologetic for the confrontation: Make sure you are assertive and firm. This looks very different to being aggressive, which doesn’t produce great results. On the flip side, being too passive and apologizing all of the time for the confrontation will not help you either. When you do this, the confrontation loses all of it’s effectiveness. It also portrays to the team member that you are not sure you had the right to confront them.

10) Sandwich your confrontation with compliments: A good idea is whenever you confront someone, first compliment them on something that they have done well. Try not to make this up, but be truthful about the compliment. Then confront them about the issue, and close the meeting with another compliment. It is important to do this because, statistically, people have to be told 10 positive things about themselves for every negative thing that has been spoken over them.

(Adapted from “Developing The Leader Within You” by John C. Maxwell)

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