Guest post by Marlene Chism
Getting promoted into a leadership position means you’ll have to do things that make you uncomfortable. You’ll have to initiate difficult conversations about performance, you’ll have to course-correct inappropriate behavior, you’ll have to set boundaries, you’ll have to inspire accountability. In short, you’ll have to learn how to maximize your conflict capacity instead of resorting to the dysfunctional behaviors of avoiding, appeasing and aggression. Here’s how to identify the Three A’s of dysfunction to become a competent leader.
Avoiding is a sign that conflict makes you uncomfortable. Everyone knows when you’re avoiding. Avoidance is often called “The elephant in the room.” If you keep allowing bad behavior because you think it will eventually change, you’re avoiding. Almost every lawsuit can be traced back to a conversation that should have happened but didn’t.
If you find yourself saying things like, “We are all adults,” or “It’ll work itself out.” You’re avoiding. Avoidance leads to team conflict.
Appeasing is a sign that you’re a people pleaser. When you tell people what they want to hear, it feels good in the moment, but you’ve given the other person false hope. When reality eventually sets in, the other person is disappointed. In fact, you’ll trigger aggressiveness in them if they feel they’ve been deceived. Appeasing compromises trust, and while your team may “like” you, you’ll lose credibility.
If you find yourself saying, “I’ll get back to you,” when you know you won’t, or you say, “That’s a great idea,” when you don’t think it is, you’re appeasing. Appeasing leads to resentment.
Aggression is a sign that you need to work on self-regulation. Aggressive behavior makes you unapproachable. When people feel intimidated, or when they think you won’t listen, you’ll get compliance but not commitment. You’ll be seen as a hard-driving bully boss. When you’re overly aggressive those on your team may be too intimidated to come to you with problems and you won’t get their best ideas.
If you say, “It’s my way or the highway,” and “I didn’t ask you to work here,” you’re using aggression. In the end, all of these behaviors are forms of avoidance—the inability to successfully manage conflict. Aggression leads to disengagement.
Becoming a leader requires you to set a new standard of behavior. Assess yourself, and see if you need to overcome the habit of avoiding, appeasing or aggression. Ask your boss (or another senior leader) to mentor you. Get additional coaching when you run into problems where you feel the urge to avoid, appease or use aggression. Asking for advice from your boss ensures that you don’t blindside them with unforeseen problems. Make the case that you’re looking out for the good of the organization. Seek additional skills training, on LinkedIn Learning, and keep a leadership journal of your new success.
With dedication and support you can become the leader you want to be.
About the Author
Marlene Chism is a consultant, executive educator and the author of “Stop Workplace Drama” (Wiley 2011), “No-Drama Leadership” (Bibliomotion 2015) and the forthcoming book From Conflict to Courage (Berrett-Koehler 2022). She is a recognized expert on the LinkedIn Global Learning platform. Connect with Chism via LinkedIn, or at MarleneChism.com