Monday, December 20, 2010

Confrontation - No Hyperventilating Allowed

Allow me a moment of self-disclosure.  I love confrontation.  I don't just like it, or accept it, or work through it when I have to.  I love it.  I don't know if that is good or bad, but if I'm going to be honest with myself, I need to admit that I love it.  But isn't that something we all are supposed to love to some degree or another, particularly in HR leadership roles?  Who else is going to be strong and guide others through difficult times?


I am stunned at the sheer volume of advice, training courses, and expert pundents who try desperately to help us avoid confrontation and it's "ill effects."  Really?  Whatever happened to actually having your blood pressure go up a bit because you had to deal with something important?  Why is it wrong to feel nervous when you know you're going into a tense meeting?  We're supposed to get fired up!  Where is the passion for our work?  Have we become so fearful of failure that we are no longer willing to step up?  I pray that is not true.


I certainly appreciate the impact stress can have on us in the workplace, and discussed it here previously. However, I submit that the next step for leaders is not to program ourselves to avoid confrontation and the stress it may bring; but rather, to embrace it.  That's right.  Take advantage of the opportunity to grow in your leadership practice and stop avoiding those moments when you know confrontation is required.


Merriam-Webster offers a quick and unexpected operational definition of confrontation - a face-to-face meeting.  Wow.  That doesn't sound painful at all, does it?  The good news about confronting others is that you won't die, and neither will they.  So it's time for us to get on with it and lead.  

Remember, the other employees are watching very closely.  Are we able to handle the difficult moments as well as the smooth ones?  Or, are we flustered, breathing deeply into a paper bag, and hoping the issue will just "go away?"


Just because I love confrontation, doesn't mean it's easy.  In fact, it's one of the most challenging issues I deal with in my work.  But I have to do it, and I have to do it well.  How do you deal with confrontation?  Are you charging ahead, or do you reach for the stash of paper bags under your desk?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of


  1. I think being able to give & take is a critical skill. Just like any skill/tool if you don't use it everyday, you get a bit rusty.

    My first job out of college had a bastardized term called "care-frontation". This was all fine and dandy until it got stupid. I mean seriously, you're going to confront me b/c my shirt is not white or blue?

    Individuals need to acknowledge their mistakes, find solutions and take critical & constructive feedback. But confrontation when used improperly tends to make you look like a jerk.

    Great post!

  2. This is one of your best posts yet, Jay. Kudos! I look forward to reading and keeping up with you each week.

  3. Thank you John and Michelle for your feedback! Confrontation can be so complicated and emotionally charged that it's something I focus on constantly. Keeping it real and professional is so important.