The tendency to avoid problems and the emotional suffering inherent in them is the primary basis of all human mental illness.”
—M. Scott Peck
Avoidance-oriented people tend to move away from things that threaten them in order to protect themselves. Why? There are a number of reasons.
Avoidance as Protection
Often it is due to excessive concern about embarrassment. We just don’t want to be embarrassed or, more often, to embarrass someone else. We hold back—we don’t tell the truth—and poor organizational or personal behaviors are perpetuated.
Fear is another culprit. Sometimes it just seems easier to run and hide. Maybe the issue will somehow just go away? That’s classic avoidance—a sign of cowardly leadership.
Another reason for avoiding problems can be oversensitivity to the feelings or opinions of others. We just don’t want to hurt anybody. The other person is so nice; why should she have her parade rained upon? Issues are circumvented, and facts are ignored. We avoid the short-term pain and inflict a longer-term problem within the team and the organization.
And then there is the old standby character quality that causes so many problems: unhealthy pride. Some of the people who are most adept at avoidance are very proud, especially if exploring the gory details of an organizational issue might make them look bad.
Leaders who develop a humble heart and a willingness to confront concerns do not allow pride to interfere. They are open to opportunities for self-growth because they are secure in who they are and are not preoccupied with themselves.
Avoidance holds back an organization whereas a commitment to improvement will positively influence your own development as well as the development of interpersonal relationships, teams, and overall company effectiveness.
It takes great courage to change a pattern of avoidance and seek instead to make improvements and overcome the pain or difficulty in making decisions, confronting people, or being overwhelmed by circumstances or self-doubt. It is not easy, but the benefits you will experience from making this change are far greater than the “benefits” of avoidance.
Freedom from avoidance enables leaders to focus attention on determining when a situation needs action and improvement.