I believe that conflict avoidance is the number one killer of productivity and profitability in small and mid-sized businesses. In fact, I think one of the main reasons that people keep me around for facilitation is because I am willing to “Go there”.
I can’t tell you the number of times that I have been working with a leadership team when, finally, the topic of John/Jane comes up. It is often the case that this person has been with the organization for a long time and is very personable. Maybe they have some great skills that were particularly helpful to the company several years ago, but times have changed since then. Or, perhaps Joe or Jane has a positive relationship with a client or vendor that is key to the business. Maybe someone knows them personally and they are hoping to avoid any sort of conflict.
I have seen numerous variations of this scenario. “We will give him one more chance,” “I will spend more time with them to get them caught up,” or, my personal favorite, “We will just create a special seat for them”. If you truly care for this individual, I strongly encourage you to stop engaging in this behavior. Unless this person is totally incompetent or is hustling you, they probably know they are failing. Please stop enabling them to struggle and fail. I would urge you to consider how this is working from their end. Think about what it feels like for them to know they are not doing a great job – to know they are failing and letting you down.
To be clear, this does not suggest in any way, shape, or form that Joe or Jane is not a great person. They may be wonderful, your best friend, or share the same values as the company…but if they are in a seat in which they are failing, I would bet that they are unhappy. Help them to find a different seat that is the right seat – even if that seat is not within your organization.
Try starting a conversation with a gentle, compassionate tone. You could say something along the lines of, “John/Jane, I love you and I know you are busting your butt; however, I am afraid you’re struggling and I don’t want to enable that failure. How can I help?” More than likely, they will accept this compassionate invitation. If you do not receive a response or if you hear the same one you have repeatedly heard before, I would urge you to move forward with something like, “Working here isn’t going to be a fit, but I would like to help you find a place and a seat you will thrive in. How can I do that?” (Disclaimer: Always check in with your HR people for the appropriate wording and/or documentation.) The point is: Do it now.
My belief is that we know in our hearts whether or not things are working out. If you genuinely respect this individual, stop avoiding the conflict. Dive in and deal with it in a compassionate and positive manner. Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself, “If I was sitting where they are, what would help me?”
Are you interested dealing with challenges and issues head-on? Do you want to learn more about conflict avoidance and your organization’s productivity? You’re in the right place! Reach out to us today to learn more.