5 steps to effectively managing conflict
Let’s get one thing clear – the majority of people don’t like confrontation. It generally isn’t a pleasant thing and should a conflict situation be present for a long time then it can have a negative effect on workplace harmony.
There are some people who actively seek out battles – people who prey on the weak and revel in ‘winning’ by being more dominant. These people make it difficult as a leader or manager because the issue is often their behaviour as opposed to an event or issue that can be resolved.
If you are in a people management position then it is your responsibility to deal with situations where a clash has arisen or is likely to arise. Here are some tips to help you in those scenarios:
- Understand that conflict is generally borne out of a sense of injustice – people don’t often go to war unless they believe they have been wronged. The first step in the process is to try to identify the reason why conflict has arisen. In this situation nothing is too trivial, from “He stole my stapler” to “She got the promotion that I should have got”, these reasons will be seen as an injustice and a hindrance to someone achieving their goals.
- Define acceptable behaviour – People generally don’t like rules, but rules are useful and provide a positive step in avoiding conflict. Creating a framework for the decision making process, identifying how delegation works in an authority statement, sharing plans on collaboration, team working, talent development and sticking to them will reduce the amount of professional conflict. Having clearly defined job descriptions so that people know what’s expected of them, and a well-articulated chain of command to allow for effective communication will also help. It is important that you clearly and publicly make it known what will and won't be tolerated.
- Consider how you communicate – bad communication can escalate contentious situations, good communication can deal with it quickly and effectively. It is your responsibility to act in a formal and professional manner. You need to clear, concise and accurate with how you talk to those involved. Avoid gossiping and consider who you are getting advice from because Chinese whispers can often result. Timely communication and a fair process with those involved will help resolution to take place.
- Acknowledge emotions – decision making without emotions is deemed to be simplistic, making the right choices with emotions present is significantly harder. In the heat of the moment you can’t expect people to act in a rational way and you’re often left dealing with the consequences of their emotions. Let those people who are involved in the conflict air their emotions with you. Simply saying “I feel angry” or “I feel frustrated” allows that person to identify their emotional state and then they can begin the process of identifying a course of action that isn’t governed by that overriding feeling.
- Draw the positives from a conflict situation – Conflict brings potential for a tremendous learning opportunity. Where there is disagreement there is an inherent potential for growth and development. If you’re not leveraging conflict for team building and leadership development purposes you’re missing a trick. Divergent positions addressed properly can stimulate innovation and learning in ways like minds can't even imagine. I was once asked to put people in groups for a series of business games. Mischievously I placed people in groups to maximise the potential for conflict and created other groups where people got on and harmony more likely. From the results of the exercises that took place, it was clear that a degree of combativeness was needed to challenge and motivate the group and that constant agreement wasn’t always the best circumstances. Smart leaders look for the upside in all differing opinions.
Conflict is challenging for any people manager. You are expected to be the person who resolves any kind of confrontation in the workplace. At Maguire Training we deliver many courses on Management and resolving conflict is a common theme. Have a look at the link below find out more or call us on 01623 810505 so we can discuss how we can help you.
Managing Conflict e-learning module - http://www.maguiretraining.co.uk/e-learning/modules/managing-conflict/