Conflict Avoidance and Leadership

First, I missed Friday Thoughts last week so consider this Friday Thoughts on a Monday. Oh, well. I had good intentions and surely that should count for something.

I’m in the process of writing an article with the fabulous Jessica Olin (@olinj on the Twitters) and I don’t want to steal anything from it, but needless to say, I am *really* sick about reading about how women leaders should do X, Y, or Z and they are always perceived as either too soft or too mean. And I was going to write a ranty blog post about my feelings on that, but instead thought I’d focus more very specifically on a characteristic of mine that is not great. I mean, I am not kind, gentle, and warm all of the time. That’s true. But, I’m not fixing that about myself. I am also not a perfect leader by any stretch of the imagination.

Here goes. I avoid conflict. A lot.

Heck, I’m pretty sure that’s why I stayed married past when that was a good idea.

But, as a conflict-averse leader, I sometimes struggle. I consider myself smart to “ignore” some things or not push certain changes in the workplace. I mean, in the past, I’ve ignored behaviors that really should have been stopped in employees because I didn’t directly work with those people on a daily basis so I didn’t have to make it *my* problem. But, yeah. It became my problem eventually.

Now, I don’t avoid *all* conflict. When push comes to shove, I am ready and responsive. But, you often have to shove me and maybe that is a problem. I’m working on it though.

I could try and examine the psychology of this. I mean, I’ve hated fighting since I was a kid. But, I think when I was shiny and new in librarianship, I had more passion about things and was willing to fight for what I believed in. Now, I make compromises in my head all of the time when I think it will be easier. I think this start that time when I was in library school and my supervisor told me I was going to have to learn to “reel it in.” You know, women shouldn’t surprise men and stand up to them like that. I’m the worst when someone asks me something and I know I should think about it or have a really good reason to say, “No, that won’t work for me.”

So, yeah, I should stop doing that.

Here’s my plan:

  • I’m actually putting things down in my TO DO list that are things that will cause conflict but I have been avoiding them. This is a big deal. It is on paper and now I have to do it or it will just jump from one to do list to another.
  • I’m giving myself deadlines. Talk to so and so about such and such by THIS DATE.
  • I’m asking my mentors for advice along the way, admitting right off the bat that I’ve been avoiding doing this or saying something to so and so because I don’t want to deal with the fight. Sigh.
  • I am picking and choosing my battles. I’ve decided to look at things where I anticipate conflict and really measure what the impact of “winning”  would be. I’m making sure the end results will be worth it.
  • I am not taking anyone’s bait. So, to be clear, I’m focusing on addressing potential conflicts that have to do with the mission and vision of the library and making sure we reach our objectives. I will blissfully continue to avoid conflict concerning things that are, in my opinion, irrelevant to our overall goals.

I also read this earlier today and thought it was pretty good:

I’m pretty sure most people who know me will not even believe this about me. I seem very forward and confident. But, layers, man. I’m complex.

So, what about you, friends? Are you an avoider? Ready to make a commitment with me to stop avoiding and face it head on?

Happy Monday and have a nice week!


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