If you have turned on the television or logged onto social media recently, you know that conflict happens—even more so in today’s fast-paced world of instant mass communication. Similarly, in a work environment, no matter how terrific the culture, occasional disagreements are inevitable. To continue to drive teams forward, leaders need to be equipped to balance conflicting priorities and convince team members to put aside personal ambitions for the sake of the greater good.
Many leaders shy away from conflict to preserve a thin veneer of harmony. However, that creates an artificial environment that is empty of trust and susceptible to instability. Great leaders understand that when they see conflict in the workplace, it’s much better to deal with the problem before tension builds and eventually boils over into disruption.
Create on Open Space for Communication
If you personally spend time on every minor issue, you won’t be able to get anything done. But you won’t have to deal with every issue in the workplace if you establish open channels of communication. Having an effective system set up to voice concerns and deal with minor issues allows you to pick your battles.
When a situation is serious enough, make sure to meet face-to-face, especially if you think the issue impacts the overall performance of your team. When addressing conflict, open communication is key. Your goal should be to make the conversation constructive. Be prepared to listen to opposing sides and at least acknowledge the concerns of each party. If you dismiss someone’s concerns out of hand, they will feel like they have been heard, and that will only worsen the problem. Be empathetic and consider the motivations of each party.
Your team expects candor from you, so make them feel comfortable being candid with you in return. I believe that the majority of disagreements do not come from malice, but from ignorance caused by a lack of communication. Most can be cleared up just by acknowledging them, clarifying misunderstandings, and moving on.
Step in Their Shoes
Great leaders have the emotional intelligence to know how to mitigate conflicting passions, understanding that although two people might have two differing visions, it’s a good thing that they both want to push the organization forward in their own way.
When conflict occurs, personal issues and opinions tend to cloud the bigger picture. As a leader, you need to make sure your team understands your overall vision. It’s safe to assume that each team member wants to succeed and wants their team to succeed, but they might disagree on methods or philosophy. This is where you come in. By seeing the issue from both sides, you will not only be able to understand the best intentions of both parties but will know how best to explain what needs to be done going forward.
[bctt tweet=”I believe that the majority of disagreements do not come from malice, but from ignorance caused by a lack of communication.” username=”ronkitchens”]
Remain Positive and Focused on Goals
You don’t want your team to be stuck in the past, so encourage everyone to look to the future instead of dwelling on past problems. When addressing conflict, try to steer the conversation away from accusations and towards goals. Delving into gossip and office politics is never productive or professional, so use neutral language while you try to locate the root cause of the issue. You can do this by focusing on behaviors and motivations instead of placing blame on persons or personalities.
Keep in mind that conflict is not always negative. Every instance is an opportunity to get rid of problems that could come back to haunt your team if not addressed. Treat every conflict as a learning opportunity will help you find agreement and possible compromise. By addressing issues and bringing them to the light of day, they will no longer be hanging over your team’s interactions.