Unresolved conflict is one of the biggest destroyers of enthusiasm and hence also productivity that exists in business. All too often we ignore it and hope it will go away and resolve itself. This is usually because we don’t have the courage to face it head-on and find a compromise and resolution. All ignoring it does is let it fester like an infected sore or cancer that will spread through your organisation and reduce motivation and productivity. Ultimately it may cause people to leave or at least be very unhappy. Rather than fearing conflict, we should view resolving conflict as an opportunity to grow your relationships by addressing and resolving the problem. A problem resolved develops far greater loyalty than no problem at all both with customers and your teams. Follow these tips for resolving conflict effectively.
1. Address the situation immediately. As soon as you find out about it, take action towards finding a resolution. Don’t ignore it and hope it will go away of its own accord. Face the situation boldly and ask the people involved what is happening. Be careful to allow heightened emotions to diminish first though, so it can be discussed without excessive emotional reactions.
2. Set clear rules for speaking and listening. Allow only one person to speak at once and ensure everyone has the chance to tell their story and feel heard with an equal opportunity to speak. Ensure everyone feels they have been heard and understood and were able to present their side of the story without involving any a personal attacks.
3. Identify the personal agendas. Read between the lines and look beyond the words being spoken. Often the real issue is what is NOT being said and this is where a leader/mediator needs to be the coach and counsellor to get the person(s) to open up about what is really going on for them. It can be helpful to ask “Why?” or “What is that about?” gently about 5 times to get to the real core of the situation.
4. Coach them to discuss feelings. Every participant in the resolution discussion needs to agree to share without blaming or judging. People will only share their real feelings if they feel safe from judgement. The more this is done in your team, the less conflict will occur. It is amazing how much sharing your real feelings will release the negative energy around it and replace it with relief and empowerment.
5. Negotiate a mutually agreed resolution or compromise. Brainstorm possible solutions with all parties. Let them offer up ideas as to how the situation could be resolved, taking all perspectives into account. Allow the conflicting parties the opportunity to find their own solution if possible.
Try these tips at work and at home for effective conflict and relationship management. I know it is a lot easier said than done, but if you start with the right intention and approach, it will go a lot smoother than you expect. Of course you can always call on coaches/facilitators like myself to help you implement these tips and resolve the conflict. Sometimes having an objective mediator is just what is needed.