Even experienced executives try to avoid conflict. Because they are not comfortable with emotionally involving situations. This article of the Harvard Business Review focuses on the mechanisms that one tends to use, mostly unconsciously, to avoid a discussion that one feels to be conflict-prone. And so while being convinced they do so for the best interest of the company.
Through a real situation, the author shows how the different stakeholders tend to rationalize and justify their actions allowing them to flee the conflict, without being conscious that, on the contrary, they are worsening the tension. Sometimes with awful consequences for the company, as it is the case in that example.
The author proposes two possible alternative tracks: rely on a reliable third person, in position to give you a feedback when he/she thinks you are going the wrong way; or ease the tension through setting a nice context — having a coffee, for instance… These could really work. But you can also learn to control these conflicts. We have taught some methods for that purpose to directors and executive for quite a few years now, including for the French Centre des Jeunes Dirigeants.
So, if there are no conflict in your own company, make sure that the only reason for that is not the strength of the avoiding mechanisms, with the associated risks! And think about training your teams in controlling conflicts…