MAGAZINE – At some point in your career, you would probably have had (or will have) a disagreement with a colleague. Workplace conflicts are very common especially for leaders and managers. It isn’t easy being at the helm and managing people, and you should expect to be faced with disagreements and conflicts. It is all about how you handle these conflicts that will make a difference.
A great manager embraces conflicts
In every difficulty lies an opportunity to prove your leadership. You can’t run away from conflicts – they will find you. The best way to handle conflicts is to resolve them tactically. This is a skill that is essential in encouraging communication.
Some ways you shouldn’t deal with conflicts:
Bury them. Sweeping conflicts under the carpet will just accumulate resentment and unhappiness. This creates an unpleasant working environment which will ultimately affect work performance and your personal well-being.
Fight. If you are in a position of power, it becomes very easy for you to use your status or title to force the other party to do things your way. Yes, you will get things done your way. But you have lost much more throughout the CONFLICT RESOLUTION experience. You’ve lost the respect, confidence and trust of your peers who were involved. It will be sooner rather than later that you’ll find yourself alone.
Conflict resolution techniques require a little more time to ensure all parties’ grievances have been aired and reasoned. This time spent must be considered as a worthwihle investment – an investment that will leave you in a better position if done right.
Do you make these common mistakes?
IGNORING CONFLICTS. A common mistake, leaders who ignore or avoid addressing conflicts at the workplace are letting the wounds of discontent fester. Nip the problem in the bud before it gets out of control.
DISCUSS VIA EMAIL. The only effective way to resolve conflicts is in person. Face-to-face leaves no room for assumption. You can also clear the air quicker. Without face-to-face interaction, your tone and meaning will always be misconstrued. Remember those misinterpreted text messages you’ve sent your friends and family?
PERSONAL ATTACKS. An easy trap to fall into when one is angry. Practice restrain and respond as calmly as possible. A calm mind leads to rational conversation. You want to win back your colleague’s confidence, not lose their respect for you.
4 steps towards resolving conflicts
Here are some basic conflict resolution techniques to help you defuse the situation:
- Listen. This is the first step towards conflict resolution. One of the key strategies to ensure you have done this right is to explain, in your own words, what you have just heard from your colleague or teammate. This will indicate you have understood and absorbed what is being said by the other party.
- Explain. After you have understood where all parties are coming from, share (not tell!) your point of view. This may involve consideration of the school policy and regulations. At this stage, awareness of tonality and choice of words are crucial to getting a positive response.
- Don’t choose sides. If you are resolving a conflict between two parties, you must not favour one over the other. A leader must be fair and impartial. An impartial manager can be trusted to propose reasonable solutions to the conflict.
- Motivate and reiterate your confidence. Once the conflict is resolved, end the discussion with encouragement. Motivation and encouragement work wonders. Focus on the positives that you observed during the conflicts and past projects. Words can be a powerful motivator.
Tips – how to manage your colleagues
Set the standard – when you lead by example, your display of your abilities allows other to appreciate your expectations.
Understand – that everyone is different. You may be a workaholic, but your colleagues have varying priorities and abilities.
Communicate. Express your goals and tasks clearly and listen to point of views. This two-way channel will allow you to make better decisions.
Common ground – identify points you agree with. When you begin in agreement, you’re already off to a good start.
Empower – once you know their strengths, trust them to do things right, and to do the right things.
Support – when something goes wrong, support your colleague and rectify the issues as a team.
Solve – when problems arise, propose solutions. The goal of managing is to execute tasks and accomplish your aim, not to find a scapegoat to blame.
Managing people is no easy feat
How do you know if you have successfully resolved a conflict? While the direct problem may have been solved, there might still be other simmering issues. Monitor and show genuine concern for the team. You will get a frank assessment on your “performance” soon enough.
Managing people is not an easy task. It requires patience, understanding and a leader’s mindset to set things right. There are also conflict resolution training courses that can help you hone your negotiation skills. With the right attitude and a calm disposition, the basic steps above will set you on your way towards resolving conflicts effectively.
How do leaders at your workplace resolve conflicts?