When I first began my career in construction, settling differences in the parking lot was an accepted way to manage and resolve conflict. Two tough guys nose to nose shouting insults at each other with their protruding jugular veins were broken up and told to take care of that later in the parking lot.
They would and the next morning they had the scars and bruises to prove it.
This is the type of conflict that should not be tolerated or encouraged. However, there is some healthy conflict that should be encouraged within defined boundaries.
So how do you manage and resolve conflict in the workplace?
Give guidance around what conflict will be tolerated
To create a culture that manages and resolves conflict in a healthy manner define what behaviors will be tolerated and what behaviors will not be tolerated. The number one thing for any organization is to create a culture of respect and inclusion.
While all parties will not agree with each other, all parties must maintain respect and professional relationships with each other. The leaders and executive team will need to set the tone and example for their respective team members. Every organization has different tolerances and interpretations of what healthy conflict looks like. It is the responsibility of the leadership team to clearly define their expectations and coach teams to stay within their specific boundaries.
Robert’s Rules of Order is an example of guidance for keeping meetings and decisions with respect and professionalism.
Explain the benefits of healthy conflict resolution
For team members to engage in healthy conflict and avoid unhealthy conflict, they will need to understand the benefits for both scenarios.
Healthy conflict can lead to positive change. It can also give someone the opportunity to defend tried and true methods. Being challenged to try new things is not always comfortable. However, trying new things will lead to innovation and improvement to current methods. Debate has long been a method of hearing opposing sides to reach a consensus for the good of the whole.
Unhealthy conflict will create division and isolation of team members. Speaking in absolutes and using divisive language will develop into a toxic environment where many are afraid to speak up to share their thoughts and ideas. A culture where no one is willing to speak up due to the threat of being verbally attacked is not a healthy culture. Being dismissive of other ideas is not the best way to manage conflict.
Can we debate without hate?
Don’t Avoid Conflict
Have you heard that silence is consent? Some managers will avoid conflict and allow it to fester within their team. Avoiding conflict is not managing conflict. Take the responsibility to recognize conflict and manage it to the best outcome for the individuals involved and the company. You may allow healthy conflict to take place within the company guidance and boundaries, but when it begins to become divisive and unhealthy you must step in to bring the conflict to a resolution.
In conclusion there is a time for conflict management and a time for conflict resolution both skills are necessary to lead your team for successful outcomes that benefit both the individual and the organization.
Learn how to manage conflict across behavior styles – Behavior Styles
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Brian Brogen, Build Yourself & Then Build Others!
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