Disagreements occur naturally in any organization, but when a leader has mastered a fair conflict resolution process, everyone benefits. Employees have different life experiences and different opinions. Of course their differences will manifest themselves in the workplace as conflicts.
Left unresolved, these workplace conflicts often grow worse with other employees taking sides in the dispute. It is one of the reasons an everyday conflict resolution process is required by effective leadership. Without a resolution process, potential growth of the opposing parties might be thwarted. Instead, here are some steps in the process, to help leaders guide their teams back to order in the workplace.
Recognize Brewing Conflict Through Awareness
When competition turns into unhealthy tension, workers lose their collaborative spirit, disrupting work and its culture. When leaders pay attention to their team, they develop a sense of when the tension rises. When a leader notices this change, and conversations in the workplace become terse, it is likely that conflict is brewing.
Timing for Effective Conflict Resolution
Leaders who will do anything to avoid conflict, create a negative, untrusting atmosphere at work. When an entire team knows the dispute must be addressed and their leader keeps avoiding it, team respect will plummet. Leader effectiveness will soon plunge too, along with any momentum built up. Soon the firm could lose other employees who are frustrated with the atmosphere at work. One key to diffusing disagreements without avoiding handling them, is to pay attention to the timing. Disputing parties could use a small cool down interval prior to conflict resolution.
A small delay, communicated to involved employees informs them of the intent to meet and resolve the conflict. It also allows them to take some time to consider their issue. This is not the same as avoiding the conflict, it means guiding the involved parties into a short break to decompress. Then the leader can set the place and terms of the conflict resolution process.
Choose a Neutral Space to Talk
Meeting in a quiet, neutral location like a conference room or coffee shop can help keep the participants on equal footing. Meeting in either party’s workspace will give a homefield advantage to one while creating a hostile environment for the other. Meeting in a leader’s office is like children called to the principal’s office. Regardless of how appropriate that might be, a neutral setting will better serve for conflict resolution.
Set Ground Rules
When organizing the discussion, set the ground rules. Be prepared to be a mediator, guiding participants away from veering off topic or emotional outbursts. When a leader lays out the terms for discussion, it permits mutual respect and balance. When both sides feel they are fairly treated, they are more likely to remain calm enough to discuss the problem.
Examples of ground rules can include the following:
- focus on a solution both parties can accept,
- professional behavior only – no screaming
- no personal attacks
- no interrupting each other
Be Mindful of Your Own Opinion and Phrasing
We all have biases, and they come out in how we phrase our contributions to any conversation. Watch them in the workplace, as they can impact how successful any conflict resolution will be. If a leader thinks older women don’t belong in today’s workplace, that opinion will color the attitudes of others in the workplace. When one participant is an older female, she may not feel any resolution is possible where that leader is involved.
Allow Each Party to Express Their Positions
Unless the parties can each express their grievances, true conflict resolution is impossible. By giving each a reasonable, equal amount of time to air their positions and listening carefully, their leader is setting the stage for finding common ground.
Guide Both Sides Toward Common Ground.
Neither side will be 100 percent satisfied with a compromise, but by finding common ground, they can find a compromise each can live with. This approach to resolving workplace disputes is an inclusive method of conflict resolution. Leaders who follow it consistently find their team members begin to trust the process, and explosive conflicts occur less frequently.
Every workplace has disagreements. When disagreements escalate into tense disputes, a proven conflict resolution process will preserve team spirit and commitment to the goals. Looking for a place to develop the leadership skills you need? Contact us at CommandReady or click on programs to learn more about how we help grow leaders every day.