This morning Jen called our youngest Noah out to talk to him for a bit before school. The school library says he has a book out which is overdue but none of us can remember the name of the book and we aren’t able to find the book here in the house. She asked him when he goes to the library today to ask the Librarian if she is able to write the name of the book down so we have a better idea what we are looking for.
Noah wasn’t thrilled with this and was getting visibly upset and coming up with reasons why he couldn’t do this. She’ll get mad at me, I won’t have time, and I might forget. He would just prefer not to deal with the situation or let someone else deal with it for him.
In situations like this Jen and I sometimes compare the kids to us. Who do they get this trait from? Before she could say anything I said to her, this is from me!
When I was really young we moved around a lot. New schools, new houses, lots of change. One morning when I was about five years old at a relatively new school I was dropped off late by my Mother. If I recall properly we were coming from a friends home, maybe in between moves to our own place. It was snowing out a bit and I was embarrassed about being late, I also didn’t want to deal with the conflict and having the teacher or principal be upset. So instead of going into the school I decided to try following the car tire tracks in the little bit of snow that was on the roads back home.
Luckily after some time wandering around a nice family noticed this lost little boy walking past their house a few times and stopped to talk to me. They picked me up and took me to the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) station who in turn took me to school.
Recently I’ve been listening to an audio book on project management called Project Management For You by Cesar Abeid who happens to be a co-worker of mine as well. He has a section in the book about conflicts and how to deal with them. One of the options is avoidance. When listening to that section it really struck home with me, as that is the way I would most prefer to deal with conflict in most situations, not only in project management.
In his book Cesar talks about avoidance being an OK method to use in relation to conflict if the stakes are low. In my example above trying to find my way home by myself made the stakes high. I should most certainly not have used this technique at that time and just dealt with the conflict head on.
In my son’s Noah’s example above the stakes are low. If we left it alone we may find the book and get it returned. However we’ve tried that and so far the book hasn’t shown up so now it is time to deal with it.
When it comes to my professional life, and even home life, I have to push myself out of my comfort zone lots of times to deal with conflict. If there is a tough conversation I need to have with a team member I would much prefer to put it off and see if it will resolve itself. In most cases though the best plan is to address it head on and get it dealt with. It’s my job to help everyone excel at that career, so if I don’t address something which could be detrimental to their career, I’m doing a disservice to them, the rest of the team, and the company itself. The stakes are high in a situation like this so it does no good to avoid the conflict.