Conflict doesn’t necessarily equal negativity. It can arise for many reasons, including personal struggles, professional debates, or social pressures. Essentially, conflict reminds us that we’re human and the better we know how to de-escalate it, the better we can control the outcome and sometimes solve that conflict.
We know that the workplace also includes dialogue used in email, text, communication platforms (like Slack), and video conference meetings (e.g. Zoom, Microsoft Teams). Especially over the last few years, conflict over virtual platforms must be recognized and addressed just as much as those happening in person.
It’s also an opportunity for leaders to model the powerful and positive result of working through challenges in a healthy manner. As influencers in our organizations, the ways in which we approach situations directly impact how others learn from us and can shape the result of a highly active or conflictual situation.
Here are 5 key strategies I’ve found to be crucial in resolving conflicts while continuing to build healthy cultures.
1. Create a Safe Space at the Moment of Conflict
As we know, constructive conversation is crucial in resolving most issues. However, it is often hard for people at work to speak freely when they’re around others or on a group video call.
Be the trusted leader who invites the parties involved to a safe space without other distractions so that they can feel as comfortable as possible, be honest, and share what’s bothering them. This space can be in a different office, a neutral area at work, or a private (and unrecorded) virtual meeting room.
2. Define the Problem When It’s Not Completely Apparent
The cause of conflict can be hard to discern sometimes. Talk to each party separately, ask questions, and gain clarity on the source(s) of disagreement. The goal here is for the leader to bring the parties to a mutual understanding of the problem. This sets a solid foundation for productive and focused discussions moving forward. For example, when I interviewed the CEO and the CFO of a medium-sized nonprofit separately just last week, I had an “aha!” moment. I recognized that the challenge was not about the particular situation at hand, but was how to best understand each other’s different work styles and leverage them for the good of the organization.
3. Commit to Exploration and Resolving the Conflict
Be clear to all parties that the goal is to resolve the conflict and prevent it from resurfacing. If that isn’t possible, coming to an agreement to resolve the issue, for now, is the next step. With this agreement, the partners can continue to move forward towards resolution.
After we’ve collected the viewpoints from each party, we can take our time to review the facts while not making a final judgment based on first impressions. Use empathy to experience the situation from each point of view. After, examine the details from both sides objectively. This 360 examination should reveal patterns and inconsistencies.
4. Co-Creating a Solution
We may not find a solution right away, but consider inviting the disgruntled parties to collaborate and contribute to the development of the solution. This transparency and inclusion creates self-confidence in your team because those with the challenges often have some of the best insights on how to resolve them. And, it instills more trust in you for having empowered them as co-collaborators.
5. Create Preventive Measures
The last step is to prevent the issue from happening again in the future. I have found that the very best strategy for this is to ask often how things are going and make adjustments quickly. My favorite phrases are:
How are things going? (How is the solution that we came up with working?)
Does anything need to be changed to be more successful?
How can we build upon the success to date, to be even more effective?
To improve your management skills with proven strategies and time-tested tactics, contact me for a personalized approach to conflict resolution. Remember, this is not just an opportunity to settle conflicts, it’s a chance to grow as a leader in a constantly changing world.