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Working with People Who Avoid Conflict

Source | |shrm.org By| Arlene S. Hirsch

The fight-or-flight instinct: It’s an ancient biological survival mechanism that is automatically triggered by a perceived threat.

Steve Cohen coined the term “flighters” to describe people who view conflict as a threat to their survival and whose instinctive reaction is to run away. He is the president of Labor Management Advisory Group Inc. in Kansas City, Mo., and author of Mess Management: Lessons from a Corporate Hitman (Author House, 2010). He has devoted much of his career to mediating conflicts between fighters (who thrive on conflict) and flighters (who fear and eschew it.)

The hallmark of flighters, he says, is that, when conflicts arise, their first impulse is to acquiesce. Flighters may hide behind closed office doors, camp out in front of their computer screens or bury themselves in busywork to avoid conflict. Others clam up. These stone-faced flighters have mastered the art of the silent treatment.

Other flighters are complainers. They share their grievances openly with everyone—that is, everyone except the other party to the conflict.

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