Conflict affects organisations in many ways – when people are passionate about what they do, when there are conflicting goals, or when there are pressures on time or resources, working relationships often suffer.
Conflict is not always a bad thing. If handled well, it can generate new and creative solutions, improved teamwork and better understanding of the situation and the people involved. However, if ignored or handled badly, it can lead to the disintegration of relationships and teamwork, the destruction of goodwill and the removal of areas of common ground or possible agreement.
So what can you do to manage conflict more effectively? What are the best ways to deal with individuals, teams and departments, so you can achieve a productive and acceptable solution for all concerned.
Listening provides the opportunity for someone to air their views and for you to see the situation from their perspective. Don’t just listen to their words – follow their voice and body language as well so you pick up what’s important to them, how they feel about the situation and any areas of possible agreement.
Try to see things from their perspective. Ask questions:
- What are their issues?
- What do they want to achieve?
- Why is this so important for them?
- How are they feeling about the situation?
- What pressures are they facing and how might this be influencing their views and behaviour?
If you know what their concerns and issues are, you can show you recognise them and try to tailor a solution that meets some of their needs.
Looking for agreement rather than disagreement might not be easy but it will help when looking for creative solutions. People often launch in with a counter argument rather than explore a way forward so try some open questions:
- Why do you think that?
- What do you think the consequences might be of doing that?
People can then think more about their ideas and potentially identify some problems with their proposals. You are also gaining more information about them and the situation so you can check out any assumptions they might have that are preventing them from moving forward.
It’s important to look for common ground. Are there things that the people involved want? Are there more strategic, goals that they can buy into? It’s often the case that people want the same thing – to deliver a better service, to work more efficiently or to reduce costs – so once you’ve found some common ground and have identified the real problem, it’s easier to move forward.
One way to focus on the issue in a creative way is to brainstorm a range of possible solutions. Another approach is to look at the issue from a different angle and reframe the situation – a change might not always be seen as positive but if you reframe it, it can be a chance to develop new solutions, save time and be more efficient.
Going into a conflict management situation with a negative approach has a strong possibility of failing. The attitude must be one of wanting to resolve the issue at hand and clear a way forward so that both parties can continue working together.
Therefore, when the going gets tough or you reach a stalemate, take a break as it can be useful to have a bit of time out and to reflect on the situation. This also provides the opportunity to gather more information and explore new avenues. Often when people have had a chance to reflect, they come back with a different frame of mind and are in a better position to move forward.
Working towards an agreement can take time, and it’s important to identify some next steps to keep the process moving. Try to agree a way forward so that you can continue to work on the situation. Think about involving other perspectives and agreeing some time lines and actions to move the situation forward in a positive way.
Once the conflict situation has been resolved, it should be analysed to determine what caused the conflict situation to begin with and what measures can be put in place to stop the situation reoccurring. The problem in many conflict situations is that no post conflict management analysis takes place.
Conflict in the workplace can destroy good teamwork through a breakdown in communications. But by being courteous and non-confrontational, focusing on issues rather than individuals, and listening carefully to each person’s point of view, you can resolve conflict effectively.
If you would like further information about how to deal with conflict and overcome difficult conversations, contact us firstname.lastname@example.org