There is no escaping the reality of conflict at work. Whether you are a new leader having to confront poor performance issues, or a seasoned leader having to protect your organization’s interests, to be successful, you’re going to have to be skilled at engaging in conflict. Running away is not an option.
Fundamentally, there are two types of conflict: productive or destructive. Most people avoid conflict because they have experienced or witnessed the painful effects of destructive conflict. The types of conflicts are costly, hurtful, and sometimes even dangerous. Getting conflict right and keeping it productive is extremely important. In fact, productive conflict is a sign of a healthy business.
Conflict is inevitable. Part of being an effective leader is managing conflict and ensuring it remains productive for your organization. Members of your team will disagree with you or with each other. As we return to the office after an extended period of working remotely these conflicts could be intensified. But when handled correctly these disagreements and tension points can actually be an impetus for change. These opportunities for change can propel your team forward together in a new more open way as team members get to know each other better.
But how do you address conflict well? Here are 5 strategies.
Discuss Problems Openly to Keep Conflict Productive
It does no one any good to let the problem fester. Get the problem out in the open. Address the issues. Begin the discussion so that you can define the problem.
Identify Differences and Points of Agreement
Once the problem is defined, identify the points that you agree on. Finding common ground will help you to work together. Follow that by identifying the differences in your perspectives. That way you delimit what the disagreement is actually about.
Build Understanding for Opposing Points of View
After you have identified differences and points of agreement, state back exactly what you believe the point of view of the other person to be. Then make sure they do the same. Doing so ensures that each side understands where the other is coming from and can often offer opportunities for further clarification.
Reduce Defensiveness during Conflict
Throughout the whole process, be sure to keep cool, stay calm, and keep your emotions out of it. If necessary, take a break so either side can calm down.
Begin Mutual Problem Solving
After you’ve gone through all the preceding steps, identify a list of alternatives that is satisfying to each of you.
Conflict isn’t always easy, but it is part of leadership. What is more important than whether you have conflict is how you handle conflict as a leader.
What other strategies have you found to be effective in dealing with conflict?
Updated November 2021.