Where there are humans, there are conflicts. And conflict at the workplace will affect morale, lowers productivity, breaks trust, or worse, sees the premature departure of star talents.
Unfortunately that is just how it rolls – and even more so in an organization where there are different expectations to be fulfilled both on the professional side as well as individually.
Today, let’s look at seven simple steps that can help you manage conflicts as a leader. Remember, your role is more to facilitate, rather than the problem solver.
STEP 1 – Find A Time And A Safe Space
Virtual chats and work discussions are common work procedure nowadays, but an actual physical space is important in the context of having a “safe” discussion. This means avoiding and taking a conflict-discussion out from a virtual chatroom, and into an actual physical location.
Face to face meetups is important in problem-solving because people are really able to experience another (rather than over text) and have a better insight into the problem. At the same time, the individual needs to feel safe enough to open up. It helps if the location isn’t in anyone’s office, but more of a “neutral”, but private space.
Arrange enough time for individuals to discuss. It is unlikely complicated matters can be resolved in a span of 15 minutes. If time is constrained, arrange for an immediate follow-up.
STEP 2 – Understanding The Problem & Perspectives
It is easy to assume that everyone comes from the same perspective, but given everyone have different needs, interests and expectations, they might not view the problem the same way. Which is why as the leader, you need to allow individuals to express their thoughts and perspectives on the matter at hand.
Everyone needs to agree on the problems you are trying to resolve before finding a mutual solution for them. It is also important that everyone understands that conflict resolution can only happen when everyone cooperates.
STEP 3 – Separate the Person From The Problem : Focus On Facts
When things get heated up, it cannot help but get personal. Rather than seeing the person as the problem, focus instead on the issue on hand. For example, imagine you are in charge of human resource and you feel that hiring some extra staffs will be helpful for the quarter. But your boss might be against it because he is concerned about the costs involved. Perhaps he is being a little more insistent and pushy than needed.
Your boss may feel that you are not being cost conscious, but on your end, you’d feel that your boss and the management are not caring enough to take care of the staff’s well being.
The problem isn’t caused by either of you – the real problem is whether the company will be able to afford it, and if not, then solutions ought to be brainstormed to see if there are ways to get existing staff to manage their workload productively and effectively.
Focus on facts, the real issue on hand. Compile and list data, statistics and figures out. It is much easier to understand a problem when you see hard figures and data on paper.
STEP 4 – See The Other Party As Human
Now that we have separated the person from the problem, it is important that both parties view each other as human beings – not just something in their way they need to get resolve and get rid of.
Encourage co-workers to focus on making the relationship a priority – enforcing and strengthening connections by being mutually respectful, and courteous. Remind them that everyone has emotions and feelings and there is a way of getting their point and message across without hurting another.
As a leader of the pack, one truth remains – never make the situation more important than the relationship.
STEP 5 – Listen First
Listen, before you defend your position. Open up and allow different perspectives and takes. You might get to understand a little more on why the opposing party adopt their stance. When you really listen and adopt an empathetic approach, you help the other party feel heard as it encourages you to put yourself in the shoes of another and really see from his perspective.
Practice active listening skills such as restating, paraphrasing, and summarizing. That goes a long way in conflict resolution.
STEP 6 – Defuse Anger: Don’t Take It Personally
There is always the chance during a discussion, where someone gets emotionally worked up, i.e angry, frustrated, unfairness. In these situations, defuse the anger by allowing the person to be heard. Use active listening skills, show that you appreciate how angry/upset he feels and that you have heard him.
When you acknowledge the person’s the right to his feelings, giving him the permission to feel what he feels, the chances are he/she will feel less angry.
Stay objective and don’t take things personally. It is also very often the case where the person would have been bottling up his emotions for a while, and would just need to express it.
Separate the person from the problem. We are all human after all. It is likely that if the person is sharing his feelings with you – in that there is a degree of trust there. Acknowledge that, and even show your appreciation for that.
STEP 7: Win-Win Outcome
Communicate the intention for a win-win outcome for all sides and set out the criteria by which options for solutions are being evaluated or considered. This helps everyone get on the same page, and hence brainstorming solutions together become a lot more easier.
Listen to all sides and compile ideas from each party/person before coming to a finalization of any outcome. As the discussion come to a close and ideas agreed upon, ensure that everyone understand the reasoning behind the resolution and agree with how it should be carried out.
Make sure everyone agrees upon their individual commitment and cooperation to make it happen.
Conflicts are actually not bad. They arise from different perspectives and sides to a situation, and even though different, they can be valid points which could spark new, and creative ways to get things done – if only we can help the opposing parties to work together.