While conflict is inevitable, a good manager will know how to spot the signs of conflict before it gets out of hand and be well-versed in tools to combat and stop conflict in its tracks. As discussed in Part 1, there are four main types of conflict in the workplace. A good manager can learn to spot the tell-tale signs to determine if communication or personal value differences is the cause of a workplace conflict with some solid preparation. Once a manager can determine the type of conflict they need to rectify, it’s important to decipher the root cause.
To determine the root cause of conflict between employees, it is important that a manager remains respectful to all parties involved and behaves in a responsible manner to keep the focus on resolving the conflict. The worst thing a manager can do when it comes to conflict is sweep it under the proverbial rug and attempt to maintain the appearance of both diplomacy and harmony. This false face forward approach will lead to more conflict and an overall distrust of management.
As former President, Ronald Reagan says, “Peace is not the absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” That being said, once a manager identifies a workplace conflict, it should become a priority to address the issue. Avoiding conflict shows employees a leader is insecure in their ability to lead. Earning a reputation like this can put your leadership role at risk. Leaders who are successful at coaching their employees will find they already are better equipped to handle any conflict that may arise because they have a better understanding of their employees values, limitations, and strengths. Having those tools at one’s disposal gives a leader a strong foundation on which to build a solid resolution.
Even with a deeper understanding of one’s employees, it is important that a strong leader takes a moment to assess the situation and gather as much information as possible from the involved parties. This does not constitute a free-for-all-tattle fest. Instead, it is important that the manger schedules time to sit and talk with each person involved individually and privately. The manager should make sure to focus on the behavior and events leading up to the conflict and not the personalities of the parties involved. This means listening carefully, and being secure enough to nip nitpicking comments in the bud before a valid conversation towards resolution becomes derailed into a complaint session about Miss Sue’s dislike of the color purple and how it upsets Mary because she really loves having her desk decorated with an assortment of purple trinkets that her 8 grandchildren hand-picked.
After listening carefully to all sides in the conflict, it is important to compare the stories and identify potential points of disagreement. Understanding the key root causes of the conflict will allow a good manager to prioritize the areas of conflict needing to be addresses since there are often as many aspects to a conflict as there are people involved in said conflict. Developing a plan to combat the root cause of the conflict(s) will give the manager the ability to settle disputes, clear any misconceptions, organize and follow-through on any action-items needed to foster a renewed and improved work environment, increase productivity, and positively impact the work environment.
Having a well-thought out plan to address each area of concern will ensure that employees know there is a resolution in sight and that their input into the situation was valuable. While the plan is being implemented and followed, it’s important for the manager to reassess as needed and continue to communicate with the involved parties. Building on small successes will lead toward a bigger, overall success.
Good managers aren’t born with conflict resolution skills, but they can be taught. To learn more about our Front Line Leadership Program and how it can transform your organization by learning to clear the conflict, contact Robert Winter at 832-483-5535 or fill out the contact form on our contact page. Impactful strategies for successful leaders starts at Front Line.