Are your dysfunctional family conflict patterns affecting your leadership conflict patterns?

Great, it’s happened again.

An abrasive leader has exploded on one your team members yet again.

The team member is embarrassed, afraid to contribute when the leader is around, and becoming disengaged from the organization.

The last time this happened you swore to yourself that you’d address it the next time it came up, but every time – you worry about the outcome.

Will the abrasive leader decide to leave the company, leaving you down a high performer?

Will your job be in jeopardy for taking action since the leader doesn’t exhibit abrasive behaviors when the senior executive team is around. 

Will the abrasive leader retaliate in some way? 

Figuring out what prevents you from taking action is difficult without looking at root causes.

It may surprise you to hear that the way conflict was handled in your upbringing directly influences the way you handle challenging conversations today.

As Leadership Expert George Kohlrieser says,

“Leadership is a culmination of life experiences and intentional development efforts. Secure Base Leaders recognize the power of their past and fully understand how the history of their beliefs, habits, and relationship patterns impacts their leadership.”

In order to raise your self-awareness on how your upbringing affects your outlook on conflict today, reflect on the following questions:

1. How were problems in your family dealt with, including addiction and mental illness?

Did your family put emphasis on addressing these hot button topics head-on in a healthy way?

For many of us, that simply wasn’t the case.  Problems were pushed under the proverbial rug, never to be mentioned.

Perhaps growing up, you watched your dad laugh off serious issues, or your mom boil over and say hurtful things. In either case, today as a leader you may find yourself handling conflict in less than healthy ways because of what was modeled to you. That’s not to blame anyone, it’s simply about becoming aware of what’s getting in your way of handling conflict directly?

Whether your role is a front-line manager, or an executive leader, when unresolved conflict patterns from upbringing don’t get addressed, it affects how you deal (or don’t deal) with abrasive employees.

2. What messages did you receive growing up about handling your emotions? Examples: “Emotions are a sign of weakness” or “Keep emotions out of the workplace”.

Perhaps you’ve noticed similar messages in your own work culture. 

Because we’re all human and having emotions is part of humanity, emotions are part of everything we do, including the workplace. The key is how we manage those emotions most often in the form of company culture behaviors and norms.

For example, while the sign in the lobby may say your company values behaviors about collaboration, direct, respectful communication – do you actually see those behaviors present in your day-to-day interactions with your colleagues?

Another example, it could be that you received the message from your colleagues that “My time is more important than your time” when they began showing up to your meetings late and unprepared. When you bring up how their behavior affects you, you’re told you’re “Controlling” or “To lighten up”.

Similarly, anytime a boss, colleague or coworker invalidates your emotions and makes reference to keep emotions out of the workplace, your family dynamics might be in your office prompting you to react to conflict in ways like you did growing up. 

3. If family members couldn’t work through disagreements, what happened? For example, were there any “cut-offs” where people were no longer spoken to?

If you grew up in a family where disagreements ended by people no longer talking to one another, or were “cut-off” from the family, it makes sense that you might be afraid of losing your job if you speak up about problems at work today.

Perhaps you hesitate to speak up about the abrasive behavior with a top performer because you’re afraid you’ll be blamed if they leave the company and take key clients with them. 

By answering the above questions, you’ve started to make connections about how disagreements were handled growing up and your fears to address disagreements in your work setting today. You have gained invaluable self-awareness.

With self-awareness, you’re better equipped to move past stuck points that prevent you from  addressing abrasive behavior confidently and with plans for continued check-ins.  

While looking back of your upbringing may not seem like it impacts how you handle conflict and communicate as a leader, the leaders in my book How Did My Family Get In My Office?! prove that it does.

The leaders in the book also show that unresolved conflict patterns from upbringing can be transformed into strengths in becoming a more effective and healthier leader.

Have you decided that enough is enough? Are you ready to transform old conflict patterns from your upbringing that are impacting your leadership, including whether or not you address an abrasive behavior with one of your top-performers?

Schedule a complimentary 30-minute Strategy call to get prepared with what to say and the confidence to have a conversation with your organization’s abrasive leader so you protect the health of your company culture today.

About the author 

Bonnie Artman Fox, MS, LMFT works with executive leaders who want to gain self-awareness about the impact of their words and actions and up-level their interpersonal skills. 

Drawing from decades as a psychiatric nurse and licensed family therapist, Bonnie brings a unique perspective to equip executive leaders with the roadmap to emotional intelligence that brings teams together. 

Bonnie’s leadership Turnaround coaching program has an 82% success rate in guiding leaders to replace abrasive behavior with tact, empathy, and consideration of others. The end result is a happy, healthy, and profitable workplace…sooner vs. later.

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