Confront Your Way to Success
By Joe Takash
58 years old when he realized that his company may have passed him
by. He had been with the same employer for 35 years. Art still loved
the business, enjoyed the young up-and-comers and genuinely
respected his boss. But he didn’t feel like the valuable contributor
to his company as he was in years past and it bothered him for
Art’s friend Peter asked him what bothered him most. Art replied,
“The thought of being viewed as obsolete. It scares me from a career
standpoint and hurts me personally. I don’t know how to say this to
response was spot-on: “You just said it, but I’m not your boss.”
the biggest challenges in corporate America today is one that even
senior executives and CEOs experience on regular basis: the lack of
skills necessary for productive confrontation. Most employees don’t
know how to manage their boss and often work from a place of fear of
resentment. Many managers will not confront administrative
assistants who are short, and even rude, to clients.
news is that most people would like to be better at having difficult
conversations, but they simply don’t know how to do it. The
following are seven steps necessary for confronting others in a way
that creates stronger relationships and increased productivity:
Change the name and your attitude: Too many people look at
difficult conversations as negative and counter-productive; hence,
they avoid and dance around them as often as possible. Instead of
thinking of it as a difficult conversation, use the term
productive confrontation. The words you choose create the path
you use. Knowing that the intended result is to help, not hurt, will
give you the courage to step up and approach others to make a
Gather input from credible sources: Seek counsel from those
you know are going to be honest with you about your view of the
situation and your planned approach. It’s easy to live in a vacuum
without knowing your blind spots or how impaired your tunnel vision
can be. Gaining different perspectives allows you to build a
confident, cogent approach that can benefit you and the party you
Put it on paper: Before the meeting, prepare a bullet-pointed
structure, not a script, in writing. Be sure that it allows you to
communicate your viewpoint in a logical order that is easy to
understand and follow for the other person. Clarifying your points
with concrete examples builds momentum, and makes a stronger case
for being heard with respect.
Be succinct, then listen! Your communication in the actual
meeting is crucial. Be sure to state your intentions up front,
followed by what you hope the resolution will be. Be direct and
friendly by looking the other party in the eyes and speak with a
confident, polite tone. Once you’ve made your original points,
practice silence and be a fully engaged listener. Valuing the
perspective of the other person will bring you a step closer to a
Be as clinical as possible. Emotional intelligence doesn’t mean
not using emotions, it means using your emotions intelligently.
Whether you’re intimidated, angered, hurt or resentful, try to
consider the impact of how both parties will feel and focus on how
everyone can benefit. This will allow you to assume a third-party,
objective perspective and manage the confrontation with poise and
professionalism, as well as the outcome.
Agree on a resolution: At the conclusion of the meeting, check
in to see how your message was received by the other person, then
discuss what the next step should be for application and follow-up.
This agreement can be documented, and serve as a strategic roadmap
for a stronger working relationship going forward, one that can be
referenced if subsequent disagreements arise.
Express appreciation: Even if you agree to disagree with the
other party, showing gratitude via a verbal thank you, short note,
or a follow-up voicemail shows outstanding character and leadership.
It’s also more difficult for others to harbor negative feelings
toward you when you show them respect and courtesy. This behavior
first requires an ego-check on stubbornness and a willingness to
advance relationships to a deeper, more productive level.
case of Art, he approached his boss honestly with his concerns and
aspirations of how he still wanted to continue with the company. His
boss listened attentively and Art learned that he was not only
valued more than he thought, but he was in line for a promotion in
the subsequent months.
not all corporate stories have a fairytale ending, but think of how
many people wallow in negative emotions from holding back in
confronting others. This wears on morale, hurts self-confidence,
limits performance and can create a lot of unnecessary regret. By
preparing appropriately and confronting honestly, you take more
control over your professional destiny and demonstrate a rare
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