conflict management

Leadership and Conflict Management in the Workplace

As a team leader you will often be faced with conflict management scenarios, where you will be called upon to negotiate or mediate and to manage situations that involve conflict. 

Conflicts are inevitable in any workplace. In fact, they are a good sign of healthy communication and teamwork. But conflicts can also become disruptive and lead to job dissatisfaction, increased stress, and lower productivity.

Diverse teams will inevitably have personality clashes, and challenging work will often lead to differences in opinion or heated situations. In fact, dealing with ‘difficult’ people (who are usually just people with different standpoints or personality types to our own!) is par for the course in the workforce.

However, although it’s a common situation, new managers often find that they struggle with conflict and the best ways to deal with it. In fact, research recently carried out by Festco (People & Productivity 2014, delivered in partnership with Works Management), reveals that just over a third of managers (34%) suffered from anxiety and stress because of conflict in relation to someone they were managing.

So what can we do to build a better relationship with conflict? Here are some tips for success:

1. Don’t be afraid of conflict

If your team has no conflict it might seem a dream situation – but the chances are your team isn’t as high performing or as creative as it could be. Why? Because truly diverse teams bring together varied skillsets, experiences and perspectives. When these combine, there are inevitably clashes of some degree as differences are debated and challenged. This can be a good thing because it tends to stimulate innovation and problem-solving.

As a manager, your task is to manage this kind of ‘productive’ and healthy conflict in the right way, ensuring that it remains focused on the work outcome and doesn’t degrade into pointless argument or personal attack. When channelled effectively and supported in the right way, conflict can be a wonderful tool for challenging stagnant thinking and for coming up with fresh ideas.

In fact, one of the biggest arguments against homogenous teams is that they can lead to Groupthink; a phenomenon where people become reluctant to challenge the status quo in any way, and where even the craziest existing ideas can persist without any kind of change!

2. Don’t shy away from conflict

Particularly where a manager is introverted or more junior, they may feel tempted to shy away from conflict. However, it’s essential to nip issues in the bud so that they don’t escalate and become bigger than the original sticking point. Recognise that an issue exists and help your team to debate it objectively and productively. As a manager, you must find the balance between avoiding the problem completely in the hope that it will go away and making excessive attempts to quash all kinds of conflict.

Ask – are you being too critical or micro-managing every situation that arises? If so, you will cause frustration in your team and potentially push away strong, forward-thinking talent. Instead, monitor the situation, take the individuals to one side if possible, apply conflict resolution techniques where required – but first allow your team members the space that they need to reach their own resolutions as professionals, and as adults.

3. Train!

Business owners – your managers MUST be trained effectively in negotiation and conflict resolution techniques. Your working culture must also support healthy processes for resolving problems and differences in a constructive way.

Managers – don’t be afraid to keep learning and adjusting your approaches according to the situation and the individuals. Informal coaching or mentoring from more experienced peers can be a valuable way to learn fresh skills on the job and to build your confidence in managing even the trickiest and the most potentially explosive forms of conflict.

Developing Your Conflict Management Skills 

The first steps to developing your conflict management skills is understanding the different types of conflict that you may encounter, how to approach workplace conflicts, how to mediate workplace conflicts and how to prevent workplace conflict creating a non-productive or even toxic atmosphere in the workplace. 

Sarah Jones Coaching, Leadership Coaching and Conflict Management.

Sarah has personally overcome many of the challenges people face as they progress their careers on the path to becoming successful leaders. With over 25 years working in leadership positions within global organisations, Sarah is perfectly placed to coach and prepare you for successfully dealing with workplace conflicts.

If you are an aspiring leader of the future, an experienced leader or an organisation interested in making your leaders more accomplished, then please contact Sarah who can help you achieve your goals.

The first step on your path starts with a free, confidential, 30-minute consultation with Sarah, so don’t delay and book today.

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