Conflict will happen. That is largely out of your control. What is in your control is how you react to the conflict. Whether it’s conflict between you and someone else or between members on your team, as a leader you will be faced with facilitating resolution. Will you become part of the problem or part of the solution?
I’ve written several times about the different aspects comprising emotional intelligence on this blog so far this year. When conflict occurs, it is the perfect time to put that intelligence to use.
Self-control and empathy for others are the two biggest emotional aids to draw on when you’re dealing with conflict.
Here’s a little conflict cheat sheet for every workplace conflict. These dos and don’ts will guide you through the basics of conflict resolution. They may seem easy or even obvious but you might be surprised at how many leaders don’t adhere to them.
- Don’t put your head in sand and pretend it’s not there. Ignoring problems is actually like throwing gasoline on them. It’s a great way to ensure that they get worse before they get better.
- Do acknowledge it in a neutral mood if possible. If you’re upset at someone, try and calm down before you approach them. If you’re moderating a conflict resolution, do it the day after the complaint comes to you. Give people time to cool off and come at it reasonably. This is the self-control or self-management aspect of emotional intelligence.
- Don’t play emotional games. Wipe away those crocodile tears and cut it out with the half truths. Get everything real and out in the open. Don’t try and manipulate the situation. It will only prolong the conflict rather than solve it outright.
- Do communicate if you feel you’ve been wronged. It’s far healthier and constructive to voice it than to suffer in silence. You’ll build up resentment over time which will show-up in your attitude and your work and only serve to make you miserable.
- Do put yourself in the other person’s shoes – practice empathy. This could just be a misunderstanding. Try and see things from the other point of view. At the very least, it will hopefully give you a better understanding of the entire situation.
The overarching solution to conflict resolution is to face the problem and solve it as completely as you can. You don’t want to sweep it under the rug. You don’t want to solve 50% of it and leave the remaining 50% to fester. It’s no easy thing to confront uncomfortable situations but believe me, it’s far easier than living with unresolved conflict every day.
Remember, conflict happens. But its effects can be just a blip on the screen – it certainly doesn’t have to become the defining thing about your workplace.
What have you done to address conflict in the workplace that has succeeded?