It is essential for all good leaders to know how to manage conflict.
The common issue I see is, people ignoring it in the hope it will resolve itself and eventually go away.
This has the opposite effect, and just makes it worse.
So why does this happen so often?
Why are we afraid to face into the conflict and manage it?
Because of two things:
- we are not sure how to manage it effectively, and
- we are not sure how we will be perceived once it is managed.
And there it is, the unspoken truth. The reality about why unresolved conflict is so prevalent in our workplaces across NZ.
There is also a myth about conflict that exacerbates the situation: It only impacts the people involved. Fact: It affects every single person who works alongside affected parties.
For most of us we would rather do anything than have a challenging heated discussion with anyone, in fact avoiding conflict at all costs seems to be a common theme in workplaces across NZ.
But what about those times when it just won’t go away. When the people involved are threatening to leave. Or asking for sick leave and mentioning feeling depressed. That’s the signal to step up and get moving.
Time to get this under control and have it ‘resolved’ within the workplace once and for all.
If you are leading an organisation or team and conflict arises, the quicker you deal with it the better. A little like mowing the lawns, the sooner its done, the less tangled up beyond repair it can get.
Some simple steps are:
- Take affected parties aside
- Interview each separately so you can see where the divide lies
- Ask each what they are prepared to ‘own’ about their part in it and what they’re prepared to do about it
- Call them in together and advise them of the plan which will loosely include some of the following:
• Parking any resentment. Today is a new day.
• Apologising for their part in this conflict
• Assuring you and each other this is confidential
• Giving them an action plan to follow in case this flares up again.
This action plan will include noticing the incident. Creating accountability VS blaming paradigm. Challenging their own reaction and behaviour. Creating a new way of being that reflects above the line methodology.
You may need to call for external advice, this can sometimes be more palatable for the people involved, as there is ‘no perceived agenda’. Following up with both parties individually in a week. Following up with both parties together the week after that. In other words, keep following up.
This approach is simple and works, if you invest in it and deal with it. Not dealing with it means not solving it, which means it’s going to reoccur again and again.
By taking action you show you are recognising the issue and sending a zero-tolerance policy for this behaviour happening again.
Conflict is here to stay. It is part of any normal workplace experience. It is not the conflict that is the issue it is how it is managed or not managed that becomes the broader issue. People will only get away with what they can, and if there is no tolerance for bad or bullying behaviour, that will die down or the person will leave. Never be afraid to stand up to difficult or conflictual people, that is how they reign supreme because no one ever challenges their bad or unacceptable behaviour.
Ultimately, the recommendations are:
- Do take charge.
- Do put an end to this.
- It is not only you they are impacting; in some cases, it is others with much less authority than you who have no confidence or ability to stand up to them.
- You will never regret managing conflict well.
- You will always regret not managing it.
For this and other ideas on managing conflict at work, please feel free to contact NZDRC.
About the Author
Gloria is an excellent mediator who has provided many years service within Government, the Corporate Sector and varying SME’s.
She is known for her excellent mediation skills, communication building and mentoring of those involved with mediation issues. She provides a practical solution focused approach, which moves the issue quickly to conclusion.
Her key areas of expertise lie in assessment and analysis of the issue, the provision of a formally designed cohesive plan and the delivery of the successful outcome.