Avoidance is the “mother’s milk” of conflict competency.
In the American workplace culture, avoidance is viewed as both a nicety for “just going along to get along” but it is also viewed as a weak response to conflict situations.
Many times though, avoiding conflict situation is appropriate when:
- You have nothing at stake in the fight.
- You are not directly (or even indirectly) affected by the outcome of the fight.
- You are looking to preserve a relationship over attaining a goal (i.e. winning, beating your opponent, etc.)
Where the trouble lies for the novice, the advanced beginner, the competent practitioner, the proficient practitioner, or even the expert in avoidance is figuring out the gossamer levels of difference between the three above options.
And since no conflict is “pure” and there are many mixed-motives and levels of relationship involved in conflict behaviors, sometimes avoidance looks like the best (out of a series of bad) policies.
But in a workplace, picking the best choice out of a series of bad choices, can sometimes lead to even worse outcomes, such as bad behavior, poor decision making, organizational apathy, and confusion.
In order to create a new competency model, we have to acknowledge the presence of avoidance, the differences between it and accommodation, and recognize it as a valid choice for many people in a conflict scenario. Once we do that, we can decide what kind of culture we want to have, and who to hire, fire, and promote in order to get that culture.
-Peace Be With You All-
Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: firstname.lastname@example.org