The trend towards continuous performance feedback presents unique challenges for managers who identify as non-confrontational. To be clear, confrontation in a workplace setting does not (usually!) refer to angry, in-your-face conflict. It is more about the willingness to address issues around poor performance and make needed adjustments.
It’s even trickier when you consider how workplace culture in Hawaii favors less confrontational communication styles. Still, the desire to be liked or not burn bridges shouldn’t inhibit managers from having difficult conversations. Failure to do so can result in loss of respect and lowered morale with a negative impact on productivity.
Consider the situation of an employee causing problems by repeatedly missing deadlines. The rest of the team is left scrambling and the end result is not as good as it could be. Resentment quickly builds. If a manager does not step in to solve the problem, team dynamics crumble.
According to a 2015 study by Deloitte, the ability of managers to have meaningful, ongoing, coaching discussions is the number one barrier to effective performance management.
This is even more critical when you consider that survey after survey has shown that millennials want coaching. For millennials–now the majority of the workforce–and many others, the old-school style of annual performance review isn’t working.
So how can less confrontational people make the shift from manager to coach and reap the benefits of an improved performance management strategy?
Understand your own personality
Being non-confrontational is not a prized leadership quality. For leaders who wish to be more effective, it is worth doing some self-reflection to understand why you avoid conflict. Does it cause you emotional distress? Are you trying to spare the feelings of others? Do you lack the tools to handle conflict effectively? There are many resources available to learn more about your own idiosyncrasies and build skills to compensate. Be honest with yourself and invest time in a better you.
Consider the employee perspective
Imagine you are working away at your job, thinking things are going great. Then one day your boss tells you that you’ve been making the same mistakes for the last three months. Wouldn’t you have wanted to know sooner? It’s not “mean” to help someone along, offering course correction and assistance in making positive changes. By the same token, if an employee is performing at a high level, timely encouragement can maximize their effort, leading to higher levels of engagement and productivity.
Choose your channel
For many non-confrontational managers, sitting down with an employee and taking them to task for poor performance is a source of anxiety. To ensure that these essential conversations are happening, use the communication method which makes you most comfortable, but is still professional. This could be an email, phone call, face-to-face meeting, or human resources software designed for the purpose.
Prepare for productive confrontation
The importance of preparation cannot be overstated, especially when the task ahead takes you out of your comfort zone. Prepare for the conversation, what you want to say and how you want to say it. Rehearsing your spiel a couple of times will help you be tough on the issue, but not the person. Lay out the facts through reports and hard numbers and explain the consequences of how this person’s actions have impacted others.
Productive confrontation is often necessary to grow business, change behaviors, and improve workplace dynamics. For non-confrontational leaders, the key is to control what you can control–your behavior as a leader–and you’re halfway to the finish line.