Danger: Chronic Confrontationitis, part 2

June 9, 2011 — 1 Comment

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Some confrontation at work is expected, however if there are individuals in your organization with Chronic Confrontationitis, it’s up to you, as a leader, to protect your organization. Those afflicted by the disease separate people from general information, social situations, peers, tools to do their job, affection and admiration, as well as hard earned acknowledgement and praise.  They actively create a culture where people feel “less than”, causing both emotional and physical stress. Without the acquisition of effective strategies to combat Chronic Confrontationitis, competent employees may damage their careers or become so uncomfortable with the conflict in the environment that they opt out all together.

If you, or individuals within your organization, are impacted by someone with Chronic Confrontationitis, there are several things you may want to consider:

  1. Don’t take it personally. Avoid becoming self-critical or becoming isolated. Cronic Confrontationitis is about the bully, not the target. There is nothing you could have done to deserve this behavior.
  2. Understand the circumstances. Even if you know historically that the individual is afflicted with Chronic Confrontationitis, give the initial benefit of the doubt. Ask the individual to clarify the intention of their confrontational approach.
  3. Don’t ignore the confrontation. Call it out. Point out what the afflicted individual is doing that is offensive and notify this person that you will not put up with it in the future.  By calling the conduct into question, you’re putting the person on notice. Maintain your position and by the second or third attempt, the diseased individual will tire of spinning his wheels and move on to another target.
  4. Confront the offender in a professional manner. Don’t sink to their level. Stay as calm as possible. Chronic Confrontationalists are looking for a reaction and it will encourage them to come back for more.
  5. Listen to what the infected individual has to say – especially when they become aggressive, intimidating or hostile. Get their attention by starting your sentence with their first name, and keep direct eye contact. If they cannot control their behavior, give them time to cool off and suggest another meeting time.
  6. Respond appropriately. Sometimes the offense cannot be smoothed over with a clever tactic. You must respond to the individual in an assertive manner. Bullies don’t expect direct comebacks, which is why they take more liberties in what they say to those they expect compliance from. Most people avoid the toxic individuals or soften their response so as not to offend the offender — which weakens their credibility. Keep the response brief and pointed, in a tone that is authoritative and controlled.
  7. Remember you have choices. Many excellent employees leave organizations which allow Chronic Confrontationitis to run rampant. You don’t have to tolerate a hostile work environment. Knowing you have choices and investigating your options will give you strength. Remember, Chronic Confrontationitis is not about you. It’s about the afflicted person and his personality problems.

The problem with Chronic Confrontationitis is that it is really a cultural issue. The workplace culture must reject Chronic Confrontationitis, as there is little the individual can do to change misguided company culture. Successful programs aimed at reducing workplace bullying need to be instituted at the corporate level. For leaders facing this issue within their organization, here are a few suggestions for a comprehensive approach:

  • Policies Against Bullying: Leadership in the workplace must establish clear policies against Chronic Confrontationitis and for healthy conflict resolution. Pacifying and siding with the diseased individual does not help move the organization forward. Clarify that the disease is unwanted and inappropriate, and that negative behavior is not acceptable to help people begin to understand where to draw the lines. Be clear as to what the consequences of Chronic Confrontationitis are (and that the organization will enforce them). Every individual throughout the organization should know what the policies are, as the afflicted often distort their understanding of the rules to justify their inappropriate behavior.
  • Prevention of Chronic Confrontationitis: Create a program designed to reduce the occurrence of this destructive disease. By involving all levels of employees and management, the organization will have a much better chance of changing the culture, as opposed to simply initiating a top down initiative. If an inclusive approach is taken, it is critical that top management strongly supports it in a meaningful way, or it will fail.
  • Educate employees : Training people to support each other and teaching them how to set limits on their afflicted colleagues is more effective than solely setting company policies. When everyone feels responsible for the quality of the environment, it will relegate those with Chronic Confrontationitis to the sidelines. In contrast, when people know that “anything goes” or “it’s not my problem,” the disease is more likely to run rampant through the organization.
  • Create Confidential Lines of Communication: Many of those afflicted are in positions of authority over their targets. Therefore, policies which require reporting Chronic Confrontationitis (or bullying) to one’s immediate superior are completely ineffective. There must be an independent resource available for reporting Confrontationitis to the organization and to leadership.
  • Consequences: There have to be real consequences for those with Chronic Confrontationitis, which everyone can see. Other potential bullies will be more careful to follow the rules and other potential victims will know that they work where they will be protected.

Facing someone with Chronic Confrontationitis can be a challenge. At some stage during your working life, you (or someone in your organization) will most likely encounter this horrible disease and those afflicted with it will have to be dealt with. How you handle confrontation in your organization may be as important as anything else you do in your professional life.

Those with Chronic Confrontationitis are only effective when they’re on solid ground – ground that can be taken away. Unsolicited bad behavior must be dealt with directly, so that you protect yourself or your organization. Learning to handle confrontation appropriately benefits everyone, but it may also transform your organization. Chronic Confrontationitis is troublesome for everyone. Addressing diseased individuals courageously gives everyone in the workplace an opportunity to transform it into a more productive workplace — and a place where everyone wants to be.

It’s not your job to make everyone happy – we all know that is an impossible task. Your job is to succeed, and if it takes effectively managing those with Chronic Confrontationitis from time to time, that’s part of the price of success.

What measures do you take to keep Chronic Confrontationitis at bay in your organization?

Please engage the discussion and let us know how you keep Chronic Confrontationitis out of your organization. Feel free to contact me at  Sheri.Mackey@LuminosityGlobal.com or by visiting our website at www.LuminosityGlobal.com. Check back soon for the next post on Leadership Across Boundaries and Borders.


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Sheri is The Global Coach, founder of Luminosity Global Consulting Group, Global Executive Coach, Speaker, Writer and Global Business and Cultural Expert.

One response to Danger: Chronic Confrontationitis, part 2

  1. Having experienced this bullying first hand, I know that my relationship with my HR Director was key to my ability to vent about it and move on knowing she was better equipped to deal with it than I was. I was able to GIVE the issue to her and focus on the client, our employees, and our image. Learning to LET IT GO makes this a bit less of a challenge as I have no abilities to wasnt to confront someone with issues which do not belong to me.

    Being tomented by jabs is not professional and only hurts the organization as a whole. I basically kept everything professional and to the point during our conversations….sadly, we never established the comradery we could have had. If these individuals realize how they hurt people and their organizations and stopped it, they would be amazed at the level of cooperation they could enjoy together as a team instead of making someone look bad in order to look better. There is absolutely nothing wrong about admitting you need your teams help and cooperation on a task. It makes you human!

    If you are fortunate to work for a large company, your relationship with your HR contact is often more important than worrying about bad behavior from someone who is your superior or peer. Having a good relationship with this person is important. Not only does it give you a trusted sounding board, but the HR individual does a great service to thier company by being there for you. It’s what they do! Theyare trained to handle these things. It surely was beyond my knowledge base as to what to do.

    Your self confidence and security helps you get through it and do the right thing. Staying focused on the goals is important, not on the person.

    It is difficult to tell all personalities to act the same when they are confronted. It is best to find what works for you, preferably within the organization.

    It is very stressful when it occurs, and for that, there are professionals that can help you cope or how to handle it.

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