The problem with confrontation is that it is freaking scary! We all have those people we supervise that are confident, charismatic, witty, and difficult to deal with. When it becomes necessary to address the behavior of these individuals, it can become difficult. They normally have plenty of excuses and can talk their way out of anything. They don’t take responsibility for issues and are masters at deflecting. Personally, I don’t mind confrontation in a professional setting. I found a few things to do to help with the anxiety that comes with this aspect of management that make it less painful and turns it into a useful tool.
Preparation is the key to confrontation. Before confronting someone, whether it is a subordinate or supervisor, there must be a fact-gathering stage. If you suspect the person of stealing money or coming in late to work, you need to ensure you take plenty of time to make sure you have all the facts. I doubt I have to say this, but if the behavior is seriously criminal, call the police, or use your best judgment to decide when this is appropriate. Make sure you have as many facts as possible, then see the person you need to confront.
Confrontation is about teaching or correcting behavior. One of the biggest mistakes one can make when confronting someone is to use the confrontation as a means to punish. Take a different approach. Instead of saying, “You were late for work again today. That is the third time this month. If it happens again, you are fired.” Try, “You were late for work again. What’s going on? Is everything ok?” This approach will keep the person from going into automatic defense mode and will help start the dialog. The last thing you want to do is start yelling at someone for being late only to find out his or her child has been diagnosed with a terminal disease or some other horrible thing. The dialog is what you are after. The company hired that person for a reason, and it’s never fun to fire someone. Get the conversation going and find a way to end on a positive note.
Check your ego. Your ego can get in the way in many instances, but if you recognize this up front and temper your ego, it will go a long way to ensure the confrontation doesn’t delve into a hurtful and mean-spirited engagement. Be ready to admit you were wrong or that you didn’t have all the information if that is the case. If you are unsure of how to handle a situation or if someone has convinced you that you are making a mistake, it is perfectly okay to ask him or her to give you some time. This way you can think without pressure. You will lose credibility if you stick to your guns when you were wrong only because you can’t let your ego take a hit. When the confrontation is over, you must understand the other person will share their experience with everyone they work with, and you will lose credibility and trust with your entire team. The ego is not worth it.