Confrontation amongst colleagues isn’t the transgression emotive legalists would have you believe. Nor is it license to abuse as the office trolls hope it will be. Instead, like any other interpersonal dynamic, it has it’s proper and balanced place in the work environment.
I’d like to highlight two virtues that help people navigate the vices of legalism and license. Our first and most important virtue
Humility: Humility is the the will to allow knowledge of your limitations to be a factor in your decisions. You must believe others are intelligent and may have access to facts you do not have. When confronting others, the exercise of humility serves as a check against unconscious motives and allows for reasoning to be discussed with positive intent and be received with self-reflection.
Ask yourself these questions in the next confrontation:
-“Is the other person a complete fool?” (usually no)
-“How could I be convinced they are right?”
-“Did I consider that point?”
-“Am I understanding their rationale or getting tripped up on their (sometimes poor) communication?”
Humble people can handle confrontation with both a sense of duty and fairness that inspires others. This leads us to our next virtue.
Purposiveness: Purposiveness is the understanding that confrontations ought to have a reason rooted in the group’s shared values. Confrontations should be limited to those times when a communal purpose exists for the confrontation. The confronted can use the virtue of purposiveness as well by determining the time and weight of confrontations in which others engage them.
Ask your self these questions in the next confrontation:
-“Is it worth challenging them on that spelling error/neologism if I know what they meant?”
-“Is there a common value that we can agree on?” (otherwise the conversation can’t get anywhere)
-“How much weight does this challenge deserve?”
-“Is this the right setting to engage the topic in discussion?”
When a commitment to shared values exists, confronting parties can depart amiably, knowing even when they disagree on method they are agreed on what really matters.