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Constructive Confrontation

When people are together for any length of time, disagreements and misunderstandings will occur. Conflict itself is not a problem. Conflict is a problem only when it is poorly managed. Poorly managed conflict is expensive. The average employee spends 2.1 hours a week dealing with conflict. For the U.S. alone, that translates to 385 million working days spent every year as a result of conflict in the workplace. The estimated cost of this is $359 billion in paid hours. (Reference: Workplace Conflict and How Businesses Can Harness it to Thrive, CPP, Inc., 2008.)

The key to managing and resolving conflict is effective communication. One communication technique is constructive confrontation.

Constructive confrontation is a communication technique used to confront behaviors that are causing a problem for you. The technique can be used by anyone, regardless of his/her role in the organization. It also can be used in family, social, or community situations.

There are two goals of constructive confrontation. One is to make sure the other person hears your message. The second is to exercise the maximum influence for change in a conflict situation. How do you achieve those goals?

There are three major elements of constructive confrontation:

  1. Describe the behavior. Make an objective, non-judgmental statement of the facts. Describe behaviors that can be seen or heard. The more objective and sensory-based the description, the better.
  2. Describe the effects of the behaviors Let the other person know how the behavior is affecting you, other people, or his/her work performance.
  3. State your expectations for change. Tell the person what you want him/her to do. Be respectful and professional. Make sure your communication or tone and style is adult-to-adult (not adult-to-child).

Conflict is a natural and expected human behavior. It is inevitable. Although some people find it hard to admit, conflict is a good thing. It can be one of the most dynamic and growth-producing aspects of any relationship.