The Management Blog
Tips & advice to help you improve your performance
As a manager you should certainly be able to handle conflict.
Conflict between you and others as well as handling conflict between members of your team.
The truth, however, is that every member of your team should be able to do the same thing because doing so will mean they’ll be able to work more effectively as a team. Learn More
It is important to make sure your team is getting along as well as possible in order to ensure that everyone’s work gets done.
Unfortunately, there will be times when certain members of your team seem to bang heads with each other, and it will be your job to identify the reasons and attempt to find a solution before your entire project goes up in flames! Learn More
Whether you manage a small or a large team, a conflict between your employees can derail the productivity of your entire department. If your employees truly care about what they do, there will be conflict. You don’t just want “yes people.”
Although you expect your employees to be grown adults and manage their issues on their own, there are times when it is advantageous for a leader to step in and handle the situation.
In your personal life, you likely pick your friends and your spouse.
However, you often don’t get to pick the people you spend the most time with – your coworkers. Learn More
In his book Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey says that the fifth habit is, ‘Seek first to understand and then to be understood’. Most conflict occurs when people are stuck in their own position and are not prepared to see or appreciate the other person’s point of view. Learn More
Of all the skills managers want to have improved, communication pretty much comes up there at the top. Along with negotiating a higher salary, of course! But
communication is such a broad subject. I often ask clients, ‘If there was one area of communication you find hard to deal with or improve, what would it be?’
A common answer is, strangely, confrontation with others. I say this is strange because surely a manager has the capacity to deal with difficult situations, and bring them to a natural, successful conclusion? Well, we’re all human, so maybe even managers sometimes feel the need to improve this particular skill.
Here are some tips on how to deal with confrontation, whatever its cause:
1) Make sure you are in full control of your emotional responses. By allowing temper, fear or anger to drive your behaviour, you lose some control over your responses. Your amygdala, which has a key role to play in regulating your temper, could run away with you if you allow emotion to get the better of you. Take a deep breath, to lower your heart rate and blood pressure.
2) If you have time to plan for the confrontation, think in advance what you are going to say and how you are going to say it. This gives you chance to control yourself and decide how you want the discussion to go.
3) Determine what triggers your responses. For example, if the other person uses bad language, do you respond likewise? If they shout, do you tend to reciprocate? Have an idea of how you respond against specific triggers, so you can choose your response, rather than being driven be an automatic reflex.
4) Often, a confrontational person will not be aware of how they are responding, as they are on automatic pilot. Make the person aware of how confrontational they are being. Saying something like ‘let’s talk about this rationally rather than having a shouting match’ or ‘Can we discuss this logically, instead of being aggressive’. Beware of accusing the other person…they may be aggressively defending themselves.
5) Show understanding and empathy if necessary. Saying something like ‘This obviously is very important to you’ or ‘This means a lot to you, doesn’t it?’ creates some form of equal rapport and enables you to calm any over-the-top emotions that may be driving their responses.
6). See the confrontation for exactly what it is. In other words, identify the motives of the other person. Are they angry for a good reason, or is it trivial? Even if it appears so to you, it might be touching the other’s hot button. The purpose of their argument might be to manipulate you, so be aware of that.
7) Plan for a collaborative response. It may not be possible for you both to ‘win’, but you may be able to deal with it in a way that makes future collaboration between you still work. Find the best way forward, and you have a chance of dealing with the solution rather than dwelling on the problem.
Not easy, of course, dealing with a confrontational situation, but by following some of the above ideas, you may create options that you hadn’t have thought of before.
Looking for more advice on dealing with conflict in the workplace? Try this article:
Head of Training
So, you’ve made all the plans on how to deal with that difficult situation. You know exactly what you are going to say to that person. You are confident that you’ve considered all the options and you’ve covered all the bases when it comes to their reaction.
And then they go and do something you hadn’t planned for.
Challenging reactions sometimes do occur, and if you get caught up in those reactions, you may not end up with the desired result you had planned for. One such reaction you may encounter is when the person becomes defensive and thinks you are actually attacking them.
Trying to get your point across when they are being defensive is difficult. How do they show defensiveness? Interrupting you, counter-attacks, blame, loud voice and defensive body language are all signs of this method of dealing with difficult situations.
What can you do when faced with this style of reaction?
1) Try to avoid debating the issue. This fuels any disagreement that may exist, because the other person will always try to justify their position from their standpoint. You sound defensive as well. If you try to out-debate or out-argue them, tempers may flare and you get nowhere near a solution.
2) Don’t avoid the issue. If you give up the moment the other person goes defensive, it perpetuates their behavioural style and you end up in a worse position than before you started. You will never get agreement and the other person will accentuate this behaviour every time in the future, because they see it working.
3) Show you understand their position. Through active listening, you gain a clear understanding of their point of view, a position the other person would have wanted in the first place. Reflectively paraphrase your understanding of the message they have given you. As Steven Covey says in his ‘7 Habits’ book, you don’t have to agree with them, you just have to understand them.
4) Respond to clarify, not to counter-attack. Ensure at this point you clarify the meaning of what the other has said. You’re not countering here, you are simply trying to make sure you are totally clear on the meaning of what they have said.
5) Clarify your position. After you have listened and ensured you are clear on their position, you can describe your position, without making it appear blaming or judgemental. Stick to facts, not opinions. They can dispute opinions but facts can be backed up.
6) Be positive in your intentions. Recognise their defensiveness is often a sign of either a lack of personal responsibility or some form of insecurity on their behalf. By being positive in what your expectations are, you allow the other to see how being positive themselves may help them achieve a desirable outcome.
7) Work on a compatible solution together. You are trying to work out a resolution to the conflict, so move ahead as quickly as possible to attempting to work out a solution. Focus on what you can do, rather on what you can’t, on what’s right, rather than what’s wrong. Take the other person forward with you to achieve that outcome you are both working towards.
Think through why the person is being defensive in the first place. That should enable you to determine the appropriate steps that will lessen the need for them to defend their position all the time.
Head of Training
While conflict is generally viewed as a negative term, there are some types of conflict that should be welcome within the workplace. Conflict is a natural reaction, especially in work groups where there are differing personalities, but conflict isn’t always bad.
In some cases, conflict can be friendly. For example, a conflict may occur when one employee feels he has a better idea or plan than another, or if he feels the other person’s idea is flawed. They must then challenge each other in order to come to a final resolution. Without this type of conflict, a business might suffer.
Believe it or not, I implore you to try encouraging conflict, at least on a low level. With that in mind, here are three things you should keep in mind as conflicts arise in your workplace.
Recognize those who are brave enough to take a stand. A while back we talked about something known as the spiral of silence, in which employees are afraid to take a stand and voice their opinions. This is a method of conflict avoidance, but in some cases this type of conflict should NOT be avoided. Make sure you thank people who make contributions to discussions, especially if they are supporting a specific cause or position and regardless of the outcome. Professional courage and dedication is an appropriate form of conflict.
Make it OK to disagree. As a manager, are you asking your employees for their opinions or are you asking them to validate your ideas. Sometimes managers tend to formulate plans, ask for opinions, and then ignore the responses they receive. Their actions and attitudes tell their team members that’s it’s really not OK to disagree and, therefore, no one does so. Make sure you are supporting your words with your actions and attitudes. Don’t look down on the criticism you receive, positive or negative.
Support differing opinions. It’s OK to have differing opinions within a workgroup, but the way to prevent those opinions from turning into a negative form of conflict is to ask your employees to back them up with cold hard facts. Being forced to collect data will encourage your employees to remain competitive with teach other without letting their personal opinions drive their arguments. If they have the facts to support their opinions you’ll be able to work through the conflict at hand.
A little conflict in the workplace never hurt anyone, but it’s most productive when it’s friendly and controlled, thus enabling you to find the best ways for dealing with complaints. Are you fostering positive conflict within your work environment?
There’s something about conflict that makes even the best of managers want to run away and hide under a rock. Unfortunately, as a manager you have to take control of any situation within your workplace, whether positive or negative. You are in charge of identifying the situation, intervening, and facilitating mediation.
I have, however, learned from experience that becoming too involved in a situation does more harm than good. If you spend too much time trying to figure out who is right and who is wrong you eventually find yourself unfairly biased towards one side or the other and, suddenly, you are no longer able to make a fair decision. Here are a few things you should NOT do when attempting to mediate a conflict.
Do not pretend the conflict does not exist. Most conflicts do not really ever go away by themselves. As a matter of fact, if it appears a conflict has resolved itself you should keep a careful eye on the participants, become one will likely explode later as those tense feelings fester beneath the surface. Suck it up and deal with the situation.
Do not allow each participant to corner you individually. Each person would prefer to have you believe his side of the story is more important or more accurate. Allowing each person to meet with you separately only fosters this need. Unless there is fear of physical altercation, meet with all participants together and encourage them to share their views in a constructive manner.
Do not let those in conflict spread their negativity throughout the entire office. Everyone working within the general vicinity of those in conflict is going to be impacted by the stress, anxiety, and disruption caused by the conflict. Don’t let anyone involved discuss the conflict with anyone else. Try to keep the incident as isolated as possible in order to ensure it does not begin to impact the functionality of others within the workplace.
Conflict is almost guaranteed in today’s workplace, but if handled carefully and effectively you can nip it in the bud and turn it into a constructive experience. Not sure you or your fellow managers have what it takes? Consider additional training on dealing with conflict so that you can approach each day confident you are able to handle whatever life throws your way!