The 8 Characteristics of Healthy Confrontation

Guest Writer
CEO of
4 min read
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Imagine you have a mediocre employee who has been underperforming for a while. He or she is loyal, with some great attributes, and has been with you for a long time. What do you do?

Related: 6 Best Practices for Managing Unhappy Employees

This dilemma can give a business owner pause, but the key is to confront the employee in a healthy way. Of course most people find any confrontation hard. But I liken it to exercise: Confrontation is hard at first but gets easier and more natural the more you do it.

Confrontation done right, in fact, is a true asset to your business. Confrontation done wrong, however, is disastrous. Here are eight characteristics of "healthy" confrontation. How well are you doing when you consider that "healthy" confrontation is . . . 

1. Built on rapport. 

If you want people to respond well to feedback, they have to know that you care. This means connecting with them on a consistent basis to build rapport and goodwill.

2. Timely. 

Address problems when they are small. This is obvious yet it’s easy to let things slide until issues start to build up. The more quickly you address an issue, the more quickly it can be resolved.

3. About making people on your team "right," not "wrong."

No one is perfect or beyond reproach. A client recently confessed to me about hating making people on the team "feel wrong.” That’s great, because you don’t have to. Confrontation is about closing a gap between what should happen and what is happening. You are communicating to find a solution, not to bring someone down.

4. About issues, not people. 

You may have a hard time confronting someone in your business because you don’t want the other person to feel attacked. This is why it’s important to confront the issue that is occurring in your business -- not the employee involved.

5. Concise.

This point is critically important because, if you’re not concise when confronting someone, you risk losing your power. Being concise means that you stick to one issue. You use facts, not feelings. Last, you need to be specific about what the issue is: Don’t talk around the topic hoping that the other person picks up the hint.

Related: 7 Ways to Turn Team Conflict Into Healthy Discussion

6. Communication with a reasonable tone of voice.

When was the last time you confronted someone by yelling, and it turned out well? Me? Never. Probably you, too. If you lose your cool, then you lose the power of great communication.

7. Aimed at a resolution or next-steps.

Don’t walk away from a confrontational situation without a future game plan for change. It’s a complete waste of your time if a resolution isn’t achieved. It defeats the purpose of confronting your employee in the first place.

8. Geared to a follow-up after your initial conversation.

Do you want to create impact with your confrontation? Then send the message that you are serious about change, with a follow-up conversation to check the status of the issue. This is also an opportunity to remind the other person that you care about him or her.

Overall, the key to healthy confrontation is seeing it as coaching people to perform at their highest level.

Everyone, after all, needs feedback, and healthy confrontation allows for two people to close the gap and find a resolution to problems. So exercise your confrontation muscles, and you will create powerful connections with your team.

Note: This article was co-authored by Brandon Allen

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