Thursday, December 15, 2005

Fear of Confrontation

I’ve been reading Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Turns out the dysfunctions are applicable to a team of 4 or 5, an organization and a community.

One in particular is something I run into often with civic and business leaders, and that’s "fear of conflict." This isn’t the type of conflict common in politics or the conflict some groups use as political theater. Those too easily devolve into interpersonal attacks and back-channeling.

The conflict discussed in the book is "ideological conflict" (over concepts and ideas). Even business leaders who battle daily with competitors in the dog-eat-dog world of the free market are often very reticent to permit passionate debates at a community or intraorganizational level. The book goes on to warn that those who fear conflict "doom themselves to revisiting issues again and again without resolution."

Engaging in the conflict of passionate debate and ideas is a time-saver, and it minimizes politics and results in rapid problem-solving. Even in a community like Durham, where we pride ourselves in being outspoken, we could use a major workshop on fear of conflict.

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