A failure to address conflicts at work is one of the main reasons executives lose respect in a team. Failing to act because of a fear of conflict is often why decisions are postponed, problems are allowed to fester, and how serious realities are ignored. The desire to be liked and not thought of badly can be so strong as to paralyse thinking and stop one from expressing dissenting opinions which can in turn inhibit a company’s growth.
Although there may be good reasons for people to avoid disputes in the office, these anxieties can also be irrational and exaggerated because they are confused with early experiences in which they might have been hurt when conflicts occurred in their families. This is how small disagreements at work come to feel like enormous conflicts as the capacity to discriminate between past and present is diminished.
An example comes from a university graduate in IT whose fear was rooted in his relationship with his mother, in which closeness depended on agreeing with her, and differing opinions were frequently met with a dismissive response or rejection.
At work, he followed this pattern of handing over his authority to secure his position with others rather than risk potential fallouts with colleagues and managers. Although appearing a good team player by never disagreeing, the cost to him was high – by withholding his opinions he stopped listening to his own internal voice and became full of self-doubt, leaving him increasingly dependent on others’ views. Eventually he lost all critical ability, while the company missed out on his unique ideas and talents.