Dealing with conflict situations is not an easy option for most people at work. They tend to lean toward the extremes, rather than the solution, that is, they either become aggressive, passive-aggressive or submissive.
None of these behavioural traits are the most effective way of dealing with a conflict or disagreement at work.
One area that seems to raise its head in these situations is the need to hold on to some sort of power. To share power does not mean to give up power. You can liken it to sharing the light of a candle. When you light another person’s candle, your light doesn’t go out. You have more light for everyone. This enlightened approach to resolving conflict involves respect.
Respect is about recognising others as being different from you, not better or worse. The other person may well have a different set of values, beliefs and principles to you, and if you recognise that the other has different needs, you will appreciate the differences, rather than the things that are inherently ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’.
Thinking ‘win-win’ in this scenario will help achieve a resolution rather than an escalation.
Here are some ways to head towards this mutually-agreeable solution…
If you appear to be against the other person and simply trying to win yourself, the other will become naturally defensive. Being open, receptive and willing to co-operate will lead to collaboration.
Try to create an atmosphere where everyone can be seen to be ‘gaining’ from the solution. It may be that you won’t get what you want until others see that they get what they want.
Looking for more help with managing conflict at work? Try this article:
Head of Training
(Image by David Castillo Dominici)
Sooner or later, unless you’re a brilliant manager or extremely lucky, you will get a situation where two members of your team have a disagreement. This may result in conflict and you have to do something about it.
Most conflicts occur because of a role conflict. It’s seldom these days that it’s a personality conflict where two people can’t stand to be in the same room with each other. So how do you deal with a situation that requires your input? Learn More
This is one area that managers are concerned about, mainly because conflict within team members often appears to be very personal and can affect morale very deeply. What causes it and how can you deal with it?
Firstly, why does it happen?
The main reasons for conflict appear to be:
• Disagreements over responsibilities (who should do what)
• Disagreements over policy (how things should be done)
• Conflicts of personality and style
These are some of the ways we typically deal with conflict.
Do you see yourself in any of them?
• Avoid the conflict.
• Deny it exists; wait until it goes away.
• Change the subject.
• React emotionally; become aggressive, abusive, in denial or frightening.
• Find someone to blame.
• Make excuses.
• Delegate the situation to someone else.
Can you imagine the results if this is allowed to continue?
What would happen to trust, morale, teamwork and efficiency?
This is why it’s important to deal with conflict within the team before it blows out of proportion.
Factors That Affect How People Manage Conflict
Some of the factors that affect how we behave in the face of conflict are:
• Status: People in higher-status positions usually feel freer to engage in conflict and are less likely to avoid confrontation.
• Gender differences: Males are generally encouraged to be more confrontational than females.
• Learned behaviours: In some teams, conflict and confrontation are a communication style. In others, conflict always remains hidden.
Conflict Resolution Skills
Conflict resolution is a set of skills that can be learned. Firstly we’ll look at how you can understand the conflict through effective listening skills, then we’ll look at ways to deal with it.
Improve your Listening Skills
By listening actively, you show a level of understanding of the situation without casting judgement. You are also able to identify the emotions that have brought about the situation in the first place.
People in conflict often get emotional, so your role is to see through the emotions by really listening to the real issues, rather than the person’s opinions or judgements.
Your responses should be made up of two parts:
(1) naming the feeling that the other person is conveying, and
(2) stating the reason for the feeling.
Here are some examples of active-listening statements:
“It sounds like you’re upset by Jenny’s remarks.”
“So, you’re angry about the mistakes Pat made. Is that correct?”
“I get the feeling you have different expectations on this project to Mike”
Notice that you just state the facts, as you see it, rather than judging the feeling.
Remember, actively listening is not the same as agreement. It is a way of demonstrating that you intend to hear and understand another’s point of view.
• It feels good when another person makes an effort to understand what you are thinking and feeling.
• Restating what you’ve heard, and checking for understanding, promotes better communication and produces fewer misunderstandings.
• Responding with active listening has a calming effect in an emotional situation.
Actions to deal with conflict
I’m sure you’ve seen conflicts escalate and cause even more problems, so what can you do to heighten your chances of dealing with conflict?
• Use “I” and “me” statements; “you” statements sound accusatory and blaming
• Avoid name-calling and put-downs (“Any logical person could see that…”).
• Soften your tone.
• Take a time-out (“Let’s take a break and cool down”).
• Acknowledge the other person’s point of view (agreement is not necessary).
• Avoid defensive or hostile body language (rolling eyes, crossing arms in front of body, tapping foot).
• Be specific and factual; avoid generalities.
Can you avoid conflict?
Is there a way you could avoid conflict in the first place, so you don’t have to go through all this pain? Some ideas may include:
• Handle situations as they are occurring, rather than allowing them time to fester and gain momentum.
• Become aware of what sets off conflict in your area. What touchpoints do you notice that causes people to have minor disagreements that build into exasperation, then full blown conflict?
• Coach everyone in the team on how to deal with conflict if it’s an issue. Prevention is always better than cure
By building conflict-handling skills within yourself and your team, you create better chances of nipping this potential motivation-killer in the bud.