4 Tips for Overcoming Your Fear of Confrontation With Employees

One of the hardest parts of managing others is confronting people in difficult situations.

In fact, HR departments and leadership teams have devised a variety of structures to cope with the pandemic of leaders who are afraid to confront their subordinates, according to Robert Walsh, Founder of Be a Better Boss.

However, Walsh explains that none of these structures can compensate for someone who is too intimidated to address issues with the people he or she is supposed to be leading.

If you want to succeed as a leader, you must start overcoming fear of confrontation. You have to be prepared to give feedback constructively and even address difficult issues with team members you may otherwise be fond of.

Here are four helpful tips for overcoming fear of confrontation.

See from Their Perspective

The best way to prepare to deliver difficult feedback is to try to see the situation from the employee’s perspective.

Chances are, the person you need to confront is mostly unaware there is a problem in the first place. By keeping this in mind, you are in a better position to engage in a discussion that doesn’t stem from anger or resentment; but rather, from a place of genuinely desiring improvement.

Consider Your Goals

Confronting tough issues can be challenging, but not as difficult as allowing underperforming team members to hinder you from achieving your goals and mission.

It’s important to work with a team of people who are aligned with your objectives and capable of pushing your vision forward. So if you stay focused on achieving your goals, it’s much easier to follow through on the more uncomfortable aspects of leadership, like confronting an under-performer.

Utilize Your Mentor

Leadership can be lonely, so when you’re facing challenging situations, it’s important to reach out to a mentor to discuss the situation and navigate your fears.

Whether you talk to a friend or family member or utilize a business coach, gaining outside insight into a situation can help mitigate your anxiety around the confrontation.

Use the Feedback Model

Regardless of how negative a given situation might be, it’s important to use the classic feedback model when engaging in tough conversations.

Walsh outlines a handful of key steps for delivering negative feedback effectively:

  • Ask for the person’s own perspective on his or her own performance.
  • Be honest, kind and understanding, no matter how negative the situation is.
  • Be specific and focus on exemplified behaviors.
  • Give constructive suggestions for improvement.
  • Don’t overload the person with too much commentary. Be concise and stick to the point.
  • Invite response and listen intently.

If you can’t engage in tough conversations, then you won’t be able to achieve your goals and lead people well.

But by using a few simple tactics, you’ll be prepared to confront these challenging situations head-on and become the leader you want to be.


This is an updated version of an earlier post, originally published December 18, 2015.


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