Yesterday, I stopped at a fast-food restaurant to grab a sandwich. When I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed six or seven cars in the drive through line and no one standing in line inside the building. So, I parked my car, walked inside, purchased my sandwich, and returned to my car in about two or three minutes.
When I exited the building, four or five of the cars originally in line when I arrived were still in line and the line had grown to something like ten cars. And still, there was no one waiting in line inside the building.
This situation occured on a sunny day with the temperatures near 60 F – a beautiful day for November in central Indiana.
At first, I thought how silly the picture was of people waiting in their cars in line for ten or fifteen minutes when they could be in and out of the parking lot in three to five minutes by simply going inside. Then I made the connection to leadership, communication, and conflict resolution.
People have a tendency to do what seems to be easiest even when it will not produce the fastest or most efficient results.
For example, we sometimes avoid a conflict resolution discussion because it seems easier to ignore the situation in hopes that it will go away. Generally, the situations get worse rather than better when left alone. So, by avoiding a brief conversation now, we buy ourselves a week or a month of hurt feelings and reduced effectiveness. It seems easier in the moment, but it costs us in the end.
Or, we fail to confront poor performance with our employees, children, or friends because we don't want to experience the pain of resolving the issue. As a result, we get more of the poor performance in the future until we get frustrated enough to “deal with it” (probably in a highly elevated emotional state) in a way that escalates the frustration rather than resolving it.
Conflict conversations, confrontations, and efforts at resolution are not always easy. Avoiding (or sometimes condemning) can seem easier in the moment. Taking a lesson from the drive through example:
Easy isn't necessarily best.
Effort, work, and emotional investment to resolve a conflict while it is small can pay huge dividends in time savings and preserved relationships.