As a leader, you are guaranteed to face conflict. You must be able to address conflict in a healthy, productive manner. Yes – you could try to avoid conflict (bad idea), but you won’t be able to escape it. The fact of the matter is conflict in the workplace is unavoidable. Having the ability to recognize conflict, understand the nature of it, and being able to bring a quick, solid resolution to conflict will serve you well as a leader. If you can’t, that might just be your downfall.
So how should you effectively deal with conflict when it arises? The following tips will help to more effectively handle conflicts in the workplace:
Define Acceptable Behavior
Be clear. Don’t assume people know what you expect of them. Be clear of what behaviors around your workplace will and won’t be tolerated. Thoroughly define job descriptions and what outcomes you expect. Have a well-articulated chain of command that uses effective communication.
Hit Conflict Head-On
You won’t be able to prevent all conflicts. But the secret to conflict resolution is conflict prevention when possible. Seek out areas of potential conflict and proactively intervene. You will likely prevent some conflicts from ever coming up. When conflict does arise, minimize the severity by dealing with it quickly.
Plan Before You Meet
Before you head into a meeting addressing the conflict at hand, prepare. We all know that conversations that deal with conflict can be tense – which could cause you to say things you don’t really mean. You want to avoid blurting out words in anger by clarifying what you truly want out of the meeting – before the meeting begins. If you want a certain behavior to stop, write that down before the meeting. If you want a peaceful working relationship, write that down before the meeting. If you are seeking to understand what the other person is thinking, write that down before the meeting.
Understand the Other Side
Take time to hear out the other person at the table. While hearing them out – actually listen. You want to understand the other person’s motivations and views before providing your own. Part of your goal should be to help the other person succeed and achieve their goals. How can you both work together to resolve the conflict at hand? By establishing mutual purpose and mutual respect, you help the other person understand your motives and also help them understand that you appreciate them for what they bring to the table.
The question is not if you will face conflict as a leader, but more so how you are going to handle conflict when it does arise. A resolution can be found when there is a sincere desire to do so. Be clear about your expectations, face conflict head-on, be proactive, and seek to understand before being understood.