Conflict in the workplace takes a high toll. One research (Watson et al, ‘96 Leadership Quarterly) claims that 42% of a manager’s time goes to mediating conflicts. Chronic unresolved conflict is at the heart of 50% of departures.
Conflicts in the workplace can wreak havoc on your human resources, with the best and brightest leaving first. Therefore, a well-stocked conflict resolution toolkit is essential gear for every manager.
Every conflict has different roots and can be approached in different ways, but some key techniques can be applied in every situation.
Keep the following key tips in mind when you encounter a conflict.
Before you start negotiating
1. Define the cause of the conflict. The real issue of the conflict is not necessarily what you are currently arguing about. Make sure both parties know what the conflict is really about.
2. Accept your opponent’s view of the situation. If you cannot see the issue from the other person’s side, you cannot come to a workable solution. Validating the other’s perception does not mean agreeing with it. It simply means you understand the difference of opinion.
3. Be specific about your complaints. “You don’t listen to me” is not the same as “My idea about the new marketing campaign was unjustly ignored”
4. Resist getting involved if the conflict does not involve you or your responsibilities. Things should go smooth everywhere, but your responsibility as a manager only reaches so far.
In the solution process
5. Keep it private, don’t delay. A workplace drowning in gossip is an unproductive working environment. Have direct, one-on-one talks with your opponent, and make sure the conversations do not leak to the rest of the office. The longer a manager waits to start the conflict resolution, the higher the chance the conflict derails and spread all over the office.
6. Depersonalize the conflict. Instead of a boss versus employee scenario, try to reframe the conflict as a people versus a problem story. This way, as a manager, you can stop being seen as the decider, and also become a victim and participant to the solution.
7. Listen actively. It’s the most important rule in conflict resolution, and as a manager with executive power, it counts double. Stephen Covey said it first: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Listen with the intention to understand, not react. Consciously repeat what the other has said to make sure you are on the same page all the time.
8. Vent. Agree to let each other say everything on your minds. Once both parties have been able to vent their issues, they generate solutions more easily.
9. Resist +1 behaviour. Keeping your head cool is essential. Acknowledge anger, but refrain from letting it take over the conflict resolution process.
10. Look for win-win solutions. All good conflict resolution must start by thinking outside of the box. To marry 2 different views on a subject, a compromise must be made that gives both sides the feeling they won something.
After an agreement has been made
11. Document the solution and the plan of action. Both parties should get copies. Documentation is important. It allows both sides to hold the other one to account if they are deviating from the agreed-on roadmap. Especially should the dispute become a legal case, such documentation could be worth millions.
Don’t have the time to implement? No worries! Receive a FREE downloadable Conflict Resolution Checklist here.