By: Shawna Laird-Brush, Business Manager
As a leader, you need to remember this – leadership and conflict walk side-by-side. You can try to avoid conflict, but you cannot escape it. If you are unable or unwilling to address conflict in a healthy and productive manner, then you should not be in a leadership role.
It is essential that for the health and performance of your organization that conflict be accepted and addressed through comprehensive and effective conflict resolution processes. Unresolved conflict often results in loss of productivity, the stifling of creativity, and builds barriers to cooperation. Conflict management can be the biggest driver of change. Organizations that encourage people to raise issues often find that doing so leads to innovation. By learning these skills, you can reduce conflicts in the workplace.
A conflict is more than just a disagreement. It is a situation in which one or both parties perceive a threat; whether the threat is real or not. The reality is that the root of most conflicts is either the result of poor communication or the inability to control one’s emotions. Differing needs are often at the heart of bitter disputes.
Clear, written communication has proven remarkably successful at keeping conflicts to a minimum. When disputes arise from miscommunication and misunderstanding, it is (usually) management’s fault for not having the policies, procedures, and processes in place that prevent such conflict. Write and publish your procedures in such a way that everyone has access to them. Clearly and publicly make it known what behavior(s) will and will not be tolerated.
Establish a dialogue. Keep the conversation relevant and on task – don’t let it devolve into a griping match. Stay focused on a positive outcome and remain aware of the common goal. Talking, dialogue, and negotiation create genuine and productive two-way communication. Each position deserves respect and consideration, so do not play favorites or get involved in the drama.
Understand each position and negotiate. It is critical to understand the motivations prior to weighing in and help those around you achieve their objectives. Broker a compromise – once one side makes a concession, it is likely that the other party will respond in kind. By approaching conflict with the perspective of taking action to further their goals, you may find fewer obstacles and less resistance.
View conflict as an opportunity. There is tremendous teaching and learning opportunities hidden in conflict. With disagreement, there is potential for growth; individually and with colleagues. Smart leaders look for the upside in differing opinions.
Conflict can also affect change. Review policies that may be outdated or overly cumbersome. Consider assigning the parties to a team that reviews the policies that caused the conflict and report any suggestions that can improve the policy.
Bottom line…conflict is everywhere, but the good news is that conflict can be extremely productive for organizations. Resolution can normally be found in conflicts where there is a sincere desire to do so. However, when all else fails, resolve the issue not by playing favorites, but by doing the right thing.