Leaders of organizations are responsible for creating an environment where people thrive. Disagreements, turf wars and even differences of opinion can lead to work place stress and unproductive teams. However, conflict is not necessarily negative; healthy, managed conflict is important for team effectiveness, innovation and positive results. As a leader, you need to model the behavior you expect from others. Is there an effective way to manage conflict and differences? What are the effects of poor conflict management?
Since conflict is natural and often productive, intervening in work place conflict is a must if you value your positive organizational culture. Learning to be comfortable with resolving conflicts and developing sensitivity and skill in having difficult conversations should be a top priority for today’s businesses.
Here are some critical components to resolving work place disputes. Mediation is often necessary to reach a consensus that works for everyone.
Steps to resolving conflict:
Identify the source of the conflict: Hoping the conflicts/issues will resolve themselves rarely works. Collect all the information you can. Ask exploratory questions to clarify the dispute. Try to encourage employees to be objective and not become defensive with each other. Understanding each other’s positions is key, being right is not the important objective. Find common ground.
Explore/clarify all the perspectives of the situation: Meet together with employees that are having difficulties with each other. Encourage staff to discuss their thoughts and feelings with each other while you are in the room. Encourage them to remain calm and respectful with each other. Help the staff avoid over generalizing, remain behaviorally specific when describing the situation. Listening to each other is critical to the success of this step.
Request solutions from those involved: Question the parties involved about how the situation can be changed for the better. As a mediator be a good active listener. Questions like “how can we make things work better between you?” will help. Try to discourage employee finger pointing and focus on genuinely listening to each other. Developing a respectful relationship will go a long way to being able to work together in the future.
Identify solutions both employees can support: Listen for acceptable actions that will help resolve the issues. Encourage staff to compromise to reach a solution. This process is not about winning but learning how to work together.
Work until agreement is reached: The parties all need to agree that the solution must work for everyone. Design specific action steps, timeframes and designate individuals that are accountable for the conflict resolution. Ask those involved how they will resolve problems should they occur again.
TLG Managing Director
A client recently said to me,
“The Managers in our business avoid conflict until someone blows up. The Leadership Group has demonstrated that an outsider can bring an objective approach to resolving conflicts that have been hanging around for a long time”.
Our consultants believe that conflict can be a positive force for new thinking and growth. We coach Managers to appreciate the benefits of healthy conflict and to address and resolve unhealthy conflict quickly.
This issue of the TLG newsletter shares some thoughts on conflict management.
We hope that it is helpful to you.
The Leadership Group helps to create tomorrow’s leaders in today’s fast paced work environment. Please contact us for more information on work place educational and training programs.