You Won't Be a Great Leader Until You Conquer This Fear

You’re not doing anyone a favor by avoiding conflict.

Does the thought of giving negative feedback to an employee make you want to call in sick? If so, a fear of confrontation may getting in your way.

But you’re not doing anyone a favor by avoiding conflict. When problems go unaddressed or are swept under the rug, everyone suffers—including you. Avoiding conflict doesn’t just keep you from fulfilling your responsibilities, it also erodes your self-esteem. No one likes being the office push-over and constantly questioning yourself can take a toll on your confidence levels (What if he explodes in rage? What if she says I’m a bad manager?).

A lack of constructive feedback is also detrimental to your team, depriving them of mentorship and growth opportunities. Workplaces marked by poor communication and unclear expectations are also breeding grounds for Imposter Syndromelow trust, and disengagement.

Improving your ability to deliver feedback clearly and assertively does require practice. Learning to create a container for the strong emotions kicked up by difficult conversations can also take time. But the longer you wait, the higher the cost to both you and your team members.

Here’s how to get started with conquering your fear of confrontation so you can manage more effectively.

Tackle Your Fear of Confrontation

Many people who avoid confrontation jump to worse-case-scenarios and carry around stories like, “No one likes a micromanager,” or “Bringing up this issue will ruin our working relationship.” While these beliefs may stem from past experiences with rejection and failure, they are a reflection of inaccurate, binary thinking. In actuality, it’s possible to be both assertive and direct without damaging relationships or earning a reputation as the “difficult manager.”

To challenge (and change) your assumptions, focus on what you could gain by speaking up. Compare this against a list of the costs you’re bearing as a result of skirting the issue. When you look more closely, you’ll see that expressing your thoughts, feelings, and opinions is far more beneficial than stuffing them down and suffering the consequences.

Reframe Feedback 

Despite what you may believe, employees crave meaningful, candid feedback from their managers. Again, this forces you to reconsider your assumptions—namely, that feedback causes hurt feelings and bruised egos. On the contrary, it’s an underutilized way to inspire and motivate those around you.

While it’s true that some bosses thrive on tearing people down, most leaders genuinely care about helping those around them grow as individuals. If you fall into the latter camp, then reflecting back a person’s weaknesses (with tact, of course), affords them a special opportunity to develop skills like grit and growth mindset.

When you reframe conflict as a healthy, normative part of leadership, it loosens the anticipatory anxiety you may feel broaching difficult topics with others.

Communicate Thoughtfully and Directly

Before diving into corrective feedback, start by setting a non-adversarial tone for the conversation. Let the person know that you hope to have two-way dialogue—not to lecture them. Welcome their input and ideas. Listen and validate their concerns.

You may also want to acknowledge that you’re possibly at fault, too. Saying something like, “We can talk about how I may have contributed to this problem,” can put people at ease. It signals to them that you’re not trying to pass blame –—you’re sincerely trying to find solutions.

Using “I” statements whenever possible helps ensure you communicate directly without vacillating or minimizing your concerns simply because you’re scared. Being specific is also important. Rather than saying, “You dropped the ball again,” try saying, “I’m concerned that I didn’t get the documents in time for the client meeting today.”

Make Feedback Part of the Process

If you only level criticism when something goes horribly wrong, or, conversely, at formal performance reviews each quarter, you may want to shift to a more routine schedule. Delaying difficult conversations only lets problems linger.

As management expert Joseph Grenny suggests, strive to make feedback “a regular ritual rather than an occasional blast.” Why? Gradually exposing yourself to fearful situations is the best way to overcome them. The more you practice giving feedback in lower-stakes, everyday scenarios as part of your role, the better at it you’ll become.

You can open up regular communication channels in many ways, including building in weekly one-on-ones, initiating daily stand-ups, or using team collaboration tools.

Creating a positive feedback culture will not only give you more opportunities to flex your newfound assertiveness skills, it’ll also help you strengthen rapport and trust with your team. And that, as a manager, is one of the best things you can hope for.

Melody Wilding is a high-performance coach, writer, and speaker.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.