In my previous post I discussed the difference between avoidance and procrastination. In this post I want to look at how damaging the strategy of avoidance can be in the workplace and look at ways to manage this.
If you are a manager who uses the strategy of avoidance, then you may find that all dramas turn into a crisis. This tends to be because making any decision seems to entail negative consequences. These consequences can be real or imaginary - whichever they are, they are true for you. Leaving things alone in the hope that they get better by themselves seems a safer strategy than "putting your head above the parapet". Whilst this can be true in the minority of cases, generally it will only make things worse for you and your team.
Some of the hidden personal consequences are that your peers and higher level managers will see you as ineffective, unable to get the job done and risk-averse. While none of these are good, it is still possible to carry on; however, in the longer term you may start to find that you are no longer asked to contribute to the running of the business; you start to feel isolated and you are passed over for promotion (no matter how long your tenure).
There are also hidden consequences for your team. They will find it hard to complete their work as they are not getting the direction they need; they may feel demotivated as there is a perceived lack of direction from you; or they may just feel that they need to go over your head, which will cause resentment.
Some ideas to help you change things
1. When faced with a decision, list out all the consequences, regardless of how frightening or trivial. Once you have done this, work through the list and determine if the consequence is real or imagined. Now, weed out the imagined ones and cross them off - remember, you cannot mind-read so anything you have written that says "they will think..." cannot be true. Finally, with the list that is "real", find evidence of where you or others in your organisation have made similar decisions and prove that it is not "real". Now that you know that your fears are unfounded what is the decision you are going to make? If you find any on the list that you cannot find evidence to refute, then use these as your basis for making a good decision.
2. Set deadlines on everything you find you want to avoid and share these deadlines with someone who will hold you accountable (without making you feel uncomfortable). Deadlines help to focus our thoughts and make it harder to avoid doing something. Also, when we experience even small amounts of success like ticking something off a To Do list, our brains release dopamine, which is connected to feelings of pleasure and motivation.
3. Finally, start to change the way you think about things you would usually avoid. I'm not going to say "think positively", as this is like asking someone not to worry. However, you might start to look at things from the point of view of curiosity. What I mean is, start asking yourself questions like: "what could I learn from this situation?" or "what has caused me to want to avoid this?". It's impossible to feel fearful and curious, so the more curiois you are the less fearful you will be in the long run.
These are only a few things that might help - I hope you have found them useful.