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When to confront, when to withdraw

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in Workplace Communication,Workplace Conflict

At the early stage of every conflict, we make an important decision: Do we play hardball and address the core source of concern or do we avoid it?

The confront-or-avoid question determines whether we come away with our reputation intact. Making a sound split-second judgment requires a keen sense of what’s to gain and a clear understanding of the risks and rewards of engagement.

Use these criteria to assess when to confront—and when to avoid—conflict:

Know your goal. Identify what you want to accomplish. If your goal is to save face or maintain a working relationship with a combatant, then avoiding the conflict can pay off. The benefits of shoving aside ill will and focusing on shared interests may trump the risk of appearing soft.

Establish the proper precedent. If you’re dealing with someone whom you expect to work with over the long term, consider the message you send by your actions. If you come across as a pushover with a new employee, you may experience greater conflict in the future by backing down now. But in an effort to accommodate a new client, withdrawing from battle can lay the groundwork for a more harmonious relationship.

Who’s involved? Some conflicts are strictly one-on-one affairs. You square off against an adversary—and the two of you are the only parties with a stake in the matter.

In some situations, however, a conflict has repercussions that affect many others. You may want to confront a boss over an unjust policy that upsets your staff. Your willingness to stand and fight on behalf of your team can boost your standing among them, regardless of the outcome.

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