The Hideout

by Theresa Zimmerman, Featured Contributor

CONTROVERSIAL AND FORTHRIGHT conversations are never easy. The dialogue requires tact, diplomacy and the ability to communicate without damaging relationships. For this reason and many more, difficult conversations are avoided and many are addressed using a method of discussion that is often times one sided. Subsequently, these types of communication dictate and favor control rather than create a culture where opinions are shared, ideas welcomed and conflict managed. These seldom produce results.

Many employers and managers are seeking an effective way to properly handle conflict and difficult conversations. In fact, there are currently over 100 degree programs dedicated to the study of conflict resolution at universities and colleges across the U.S. compared to just a handful in 1980.

A recent call froconflict-resolutionm an individual I worked with some 10 plus years ago brought this to the forefront for me. After pleasantries were exchanged she admitted she was calling for some advice. She went on to explain that a co-worker of hers was very difficult to work with. The colleague was extremely negative, spoke behind my friend and others backs and poked fun of others. On three occasions she met privately with her co-worker and voiced her concerns. Each time she was cut off with flippant remarks such as, “get over it.” Needless to say, my friend did her best.

Because the behavior became too much for her to handle, she proceeded to ask for her supervisor’s assistance. She did not want him to fix the problem but rather facilitate a meeting between the two. She hoped a well-managed intervention would yield helpful results. She was wrong.

The response from her supervisor was weak. He did not like confrontation. However, in true middle management fashion he sent out a memo which emphasized the need for people to work together and get along.

Does this sound familiar? Unfortunately, for many people this is standard operating procedure. I have seen great talent leave their employer due to their own or their supervisors lack of conflict management skills. On the flipside, I have witnessed firsthand the benefits of developing people so that they are able to manage conflict successfully. One wastes time while the other develops a culture of trust and healthy communications. [message type=”custom” width=”100%” start_color=”#D8D8D8″ end_color=”#D8D8D8″ border=”#BBBBBB” color=”#333333″]As leaders, we have a responsibility to create an atmosphere of open communications. We must be aware of how we communicate as well as what the receiver understands. We must ask ourselves if our message is clear. If it is not, the message we hoped to deliver is destined to hideout? Remember, if a conversation remains hidden it cannot produce results that are meaningful, thus it becomes merely a waste of valuable time.[/message]

It is up to each of us. However, with time being such a valued commodity I believe that holding those difficult conversations and managing conflict that inhibits an organizations growth is a far better use of one’s time. This is better than wasting efforts on seemingly effective communications which produces nothing more than a “hide out” for difficult conversations.


Theresa Zimmermann
Theresa Zimmermann
THERESA is a founding member of Future Focus Group, LLC, based in Houston, TX. She has spent a majority of her career in human resources as a Talent Acquisition specialist and most recently as an HR Manager in one of the largest hospital systems in Wisconsin. Currently, Theresa is on the adjunct faculty of Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland, WI. She also is an active member of the Sheboygan County Chamber of Commerce and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Kiel, WI Chamber of Commerce. Theresa also provides leadership workshops as part of the certificate program offered by the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay SBDC. She is a co-author of “Evolved…Engaging People, Enhancing Success”. Theresa is a native of Wisconsin.

CHECK FOR TICKETS / JOIN OUR WAITING LIST! It's not a virtual event. It's not a conference. It's not a seminar, a meeting, or a symposium. It's not about attracting a big crowd. It's not about making a profit, but rather about making a real difference. LEARN MORE HERE



  1. Robert, I am glad you enjoyed the article.

    The engagement, or should I say lack of engagement, numbers are not new to me. It is sad to see organizations continue to utilize myths and rituals of leadership that simply do not work with the modern workforce (and quite honestly may never have worked).

    86% of the workforce want development. Hiring for the KSA’s and developing individuals to be competent empowers and engages. Part of this development involves an interpersonal component and is part of Future Focus Group’s copyrighted process the Pillars of an Evolved Workforce.

    Organizations may hire talent that is grand. That talent may have the ability to perform competently and possess the basic characteristics to be considered a cultural fit. However, unless you develop and maintain an understanding of conflict management throughout an organization you may be missing a very important piece. This development piece is what the new workforce is looking for and needed for an organization to thrive in the 21st Century and beyond.

    • Theresa,

      “Organizations may hire talent that is grand.”

      I guess we use the word talent to mean different things.

      “That talent may have the ability to perform competently (competence) and possess the basic characteristics to be considered a “cultural fit.”

      You have not included job talent.

      “However, unless you develop and maintain an understanding of conflict management throughout an organization you may be missing a very important piece.

      That is part of job talent.

      “This development piece is what the new workforce is looking for and needed for an organization to thrive in the 21st Century and beyond.”

      Employers do not develop employees’ talent but they do hire it.

  2. Hello Theresa, excellent article, thank you.

    We should not be surprised by the actions of so many managers; they were not hired for their willingness or ability to work through such problems.

    80% of employees self-report that they are not engaged.
    80% of managers are ill suited to effectively manage people.
    The two 80 percents are closely related.

    We keep hiring the wrong people to be managers and then we bemoan the fact that so many employees are not engaged. Successful employees have all three of the following success predictors while unsuccessful employees lack one or two and usually it is Job Talent that they lack.
    1. Competence
    2. Cultural Fit
    3. Job Talent 

    Employers do a… 

    A. GREAT job of hiring competent employees, about 95%
    B. good job of hiring competent employees who fit the culture, about 70%
    C. POOR job of hiring competent employees who fit the culture and who have a talent for the job, about 20%

    Identifying the talent required for each job seems to be missing from talent and management discussions. If we ignore any of the three criteria, then our workforce will be less successful with higher turnover than if we do not ignore any of the three criteria.

    There are many factors to consider when hiring and managing talent but first we need to define talent unless “hiring talent” means “hiring employees.” Everyone wants to hire for and manage talent but if we can’t answer the five questions below with specificity, we can’t hire or manage talent effectively.
    1. How do we define talent?
    2. How do we measure talent?
    3. How do we know a candidate’s talent?
    4. How do we know what talent is required for each job?
    5. How do we match a candidate’s talent to the talent demanded by the job?

    Most managers cannot answer the five questions with specificity but the answers provide the framework for hiring successful employees and creating an engaged workforce.

    Talent is not found in resumes or interviews or background checks or college transcripts.

    Talent must be hired since it cannot be acquired or imparted after the hire.