Disagreement and conflict are perfectly natural occurrences in any organisation or team where people care about the issues. In fact, you should probably worry where conflict does not occur as it could mean that your employees do not care enough about the job.
Of course, no matter how usual conflict is, it can still be very difficult to deal with and can cause stress and concern for even the best manager. However, if you learn how to handle conflict effectively you can significantly reduce the frequency and seriousness of any disagreement.
Disagreement and conflict can be a really positive starting point for creating new ideas and developing different ways of working. Some useful tips to consider are…
Conflicts are how priorities get set and decisions get made. It allows communication around issues that might otherwise get neglected and cause negativity and underlying tensions. A good manager will embrace negativity and use it to develop their interpersonal skills and create an inclusive culture.
Don’t take conflict personally, even if the person causing the conflict means it that way. Focus on the interests and issues involved and resolve things from that perspective.
Take an unemotional approach to the issues and observe from a detached position. If you lose your temper, you will lose credibility and people will not respect any decision you then identify. You may have some very strong feelings inside and want to explode,
but remain focused and stay calm on the outside.
It can be tempting to use your power as a manager to make a unilateral decision quickly when conflict occurs. You should explore the position of those involved in the conflict and try to truly understand the viewpoints of those involved before you respond.
There will be times when conflict does become emotional and come to be difficult to deal with. When this occurs, the following simple model can help to diffuse situations and ensure you approach the problem positively.
There is a temptation to move straight to resolving a problem when conflict becomes emotional. However, this is rarely the best method of reducing the conflict as the individuals emotions will always get in the way. Therefore, you must first diffuse the person’s anger by providing empathy to their concerns. This means really seeing things from their point of view and stating that.
Once you have defused the emotions and demonstrated that you understand you can move on to agreeing what the problem is without the emotional element attached. This helps you to resolve the way forward.
At this point it is probably worth reminding ourselves of the old saying, ‘Win a friend, not the argument’.