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CXO

The opposite of bullies: The damage conflict-averse bosses can cause

Think bullying bosses are stressful? Blogger Toni Bowers say try working for a conflict-averse boss and see the problems pile up.

I get lots of email from TechRepublic members who report to volatile bosses. These kinds of bosses tend to be micromanagers who like everything to go their way and, when it doesn't, they aren't afraid to show it. They cause the work environment to be very stressful.

At the other end of the spectrum is the conflict-averse boss. You would think working for this type of person would be all flowers and sunshine, a general kumbaya type of deal. But you know what? A seriously conflict-adverse boss can wreak as much havoc on a working environment as the hothead.

The latter type of boss tends to put off anything unpleasant. This attitude lets personnel issues fester; it causes team workloads to increase (the boss never wants to say no); and it can generally throw a monkey wrench into productivity.

Let's say you have a co-worker who is not holding up her share of the work. You put up with the situation until it seriously starts to affect your morale. You go to your conflict-averse boss and tell him. He will most likely tell you to speak to the co-worker yourself, ostensively under the "you should learn to solve problems on your own" advice.

However, there are some things you can't manage laterally. Team productivity and workload distribution is one of those. It's his place to talk to the employee, but he won't and things get worse.

The conflict-averse boss will never in a million years explain to someone higher than him on the food chain why his team can't take on another project even if it's because it would be more efficient to let another team to do it. Refusal can be done in a way that isn't considered insubordination. But not our guy. He doesn't want to make waves.

Our conflict-averse guy will also say yes to everyone else. He'll tell you that you can oversee a small project, but then he'll also tell the next person she can do it, leaving you both to step on each others' toes.

I'm not advocating that people become enamored with conflict, but conflict is inevitable, and you need to deal with it when it happens. Don't create it, but deal with it when you necessary.

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About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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